Bayan Muna, Karapatan condemn ‘witch hunt’ vs Lumad evacuees in Davao City

Mara Cepeda
Paramilitary group Alamara allegedly forcibly enters the UCCP Haran compound where Lumad evacuees have taken refuge since 2015

LUMAD ATTACK. Progressive and human rights group decry paramilitary group Alamara's attack against Lumad evacuees in Davao City. Photo courtesy of Save Our Schools Network Facebook page

MANILA, Philippines – Lawmakers from the progressive Bayan Muna and human rights group Karapatan condemned the paramilitary group Alamara’s attack against more than 500 Lumad evacuees.

In separate statements on Saturday, January 25, Bayan Muna and Karapatan alleged the bolo-wielding members of Alamara forcibly entered the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) Haran compound in Davao City, where the displaced Lumad sought sanctuary since 2015. (READ: What the Lumad are fighting for)

Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate even likened the Alamara’s attack to the activities of the private army of the Ampatuan clan, who were found guilty of murdering 57 people in Maguindanao.

“This is a rabid witch hunt supported and encouraged by complicit local officials that causes destruction, fear, and anarchy. It may even result to death because the Alamara has operated and acted with impunity akin to what the private army of the warlord Ampatuan did in Maguindanao,” Zarate said. 

Manobo leader turned Bayan Muna Representative Eufemia Cullamat said the paramilitary group’s attack against the Lumad evacuees was “revolting.”  

“Nakakasuklam ang ginawang iligal na paghihimasok nila sa UCCP Haran na winawasak nila ang mga tirahan ng mga Lumad. Ito ba ang mukha ng kanilang peace and order, ang wasakin ang pamumuhay ng mga katutubo sa amin mga Lumad?” Cullama said. 

(Their illegal entry into the UCCP Haran is revolting as they destroyed the homes of the Lumad. Is this the face of their peace and order, to destroy the lives of us Lumad?)

According to Karapatan, some 50 men – including members of Alamara and “suspected state agents in plainclothes” – tore down the UCCP Haran compound’s walls using wire cutters on Saturday morning.

They supposedly carried placards with text “vilifying” the UCCP. Karaptan said the police present were also “complicit” in the attack, as they did not apprehend any of the perpetrators. 

The Lumad evacuees were then forced to flee to another building inside the UCCP Haran compound.  

Karapatan noted the assault came just 10 days after the Region 11 Regional Peace and Order Council issued a resolution demanding the total closure of the UCCP Haran’s compound. 

“The National Task Force to End the Local Communist Armed Conflict, and its local counterpart in the Southern Mindanao region are undoubtedly behind this latest attack. They have repeatedly incited violence against the UCCP and the Lumad evacuees, as they are also moving towards the closure of the said compound,” Karapatan said.

The human rights group then urged the Commission on Human Rights to “take action” against this latest attack on indigenous peoples and church workers. 

Then-Davao City mayor Rodrigo Duterte was known as a champion of the Lumad in Mindanao. But his tone shifted when he became President in 2016. (WATCH: Rappler Talk: The love-hate relationship between Duterte and the Lumad) 

In his second State of the Nation Address in 2017, Duterte threatened to bomb Lumad schools who were allegedly teaching “subversion” and “communism.” – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.