DAVAO CITY, Philippines — A Protestant church defended the sanctuary it is providing for indigenous people evacuees in Mindanao against a regional government body’s order for its closure.
The United Church of Christ of the Philippines – Southeast Mindanao Jurisdictional Area (UCCP-SEMJA) expressed their opposition to the recent resolution of the Regional Peace and Order Council 11 (RPOC-11) which seeks to close down the sanctuary they provide for around 500 Manobo Lumad from the provinces of Davao del Norte, Compostela Valley and North Cotabato.
The RPOC-11 also said it will pursue arrests and filing of charges on those supporting the Lumad.
Bishop Hamuel Tequis, head of the UCCP-SEMJA, calls this resolution a “continuing harassment and possible filing of charges against the UCCP Haran Mission Center is a threat against the commitment of the Church to do Christ’s mission of ministering to the oppressed and the marginalized.”
The bishop said that his group still has not received a copy of the resolution and was not invited to the RPOC meeting last January 15 to respond to the accusations.
A copy of the RPOC resolution will also be forwarded to the Regional Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (RTF-ELCAC) for “appropriate legal action.”
The RPOC is led by governors from the five provinces of Davao Region and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, and is attended by officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines assigned to Mindanao.
Tequis said UCCP Haran compound has served as a shelter for displaced Lumad since the 1990s, recalling the Talaingod Manobo evacuated in protest of a logging company encroaching their ancestral domain.
“This has served as a home for victims of oppression and injustice. It has become a place of healing among them who have been distressed by intermittent harassment and violence committed against them,” the bishop said.
The evacuees said paramilitary and soldiers have disrupted and forcibly closed their schools, and forcing them to join the paramilitary.
The Lumad leaders also denounced the RPOC-11 resolution, saying it does not address their demands to pullout the military and paramilitary groups so they can return to their villages.
The bishop said they will face and challenge the accusations of the RPOC.
“Like shepherds, there are calls for persecution of shepherding the Lumads. We are being vilified and crucified for doing so. And like Christ, we face these challenges with courage and faith,” Tequis added. (davaotoday.com)