2-year-old, Demon Manayab sustained second degree burns on both hands after the fire partially damaged their temporary shelter. (Photo by Ace R. Morandante/davaotoday.com)

2-year-old, Demon Manayab sustained second degree burns on both hands after the fire partially damaged their temporary shelter. (Photo by Ace R. Morandante/davaotoday.com)

DAVAO CITY — Human rights group Karapatan has made a formal complaint to the United Nations (UN) on the burning of makeshift shelters and a church-owned dormitory which housed at least 700 Lumad evacuees.

In their complaint letter addressed to UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Internally Displaced Persons Chaloka Beyani, Karapatan said:

“The continuing harassment on the Lumad evacuees seeking refuge at the UCCP Haran, and the insistence of state agencies to force them back to their communities, show a lack of understanding of their plight and a lack of concern for their safety and welfare.”

The letter, dated February 29, 2016, was submitted during the 31st United Nations Human Rights Council session in Geneva, Switzerland through Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay.

Palabay, together with Michelle Campos, daughter of slain Lumad leader Dionel Campos, and Karapatan Caraga coordinator Naty Castro were in the said session to raise awareness on the killings and forcible evacuation in the Philippines, including that of indigenous rights defenders and their communities.

“We are submitting this letter of allegation for your consideration and to investigate, make recommendation/s or take any appropriate action/s regarding the human rights violations committed by the Philippine military in the UCCP evacuation center for indigenous people in Davao City, Philippines,” the letter reads.

On February 24, fire gutted the makeshift shelter houses of the Lumad and the dormitory owned by the United Church of Christ in the Philipppines. Five indigenous peoples were hurt during the incident, including small children.

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The evacuees started to arrive at the UCCP Haran by batches in February 2015. Most them are from Talaingod and Kapalong, Davao del Norte, while a number came from Kitaotao in Bukidnon province. The Lumad fled their communities because of militarization and the harassment from Alamara militia forces occupying their communities. The residents reported that the Alamara are forcibly recruiting them into the paramilitary group.

In Geneva, Palabay said institutions, organizations and individuals from Canada, the Netherlands, Rome, and Australia also condemned the deliberate burning of the Lumad evacuation center and wrote statements and appeals calling on President Benigno Aquino to stop the harassment of Lumad evacuees and to stop military operations in civilian communities.

The United Church of Canada, Netherlands Philippines Solidarity Committee, International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines Canada, Sisters of Our Lady of Sion Australia, Consiglio Metropolitano Partecipato Rome, and Palestina nel Cuore Committee of Rome are among the said organizations.

In July 2015, Beyani was in the Philippines for an official visit to investigate the human rights situation of internally displaced persons in typhoon Haiyan-affected communities, as well as those affected by mining activities of multinational corporations.

He also visited the UCCP Haran compound and had a dialogue with tribal leaders who spoke about how their lives have been jeopardized due to military operations in their areas. (davaotoday.com)

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