DAVAO CITY – Calls for a thorough investigation into the fire incident inside a property owned by a Protestant church here in February are mounting.
In their privilege speeches on Tuesday, March 1, councilors Halila Sudagar and Leah Librado condemned the intentional fire incident which damaged the dormitory owned by the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) and injured at least five Lumad evacuees including children.
Sudagar, who is the city’s Indigenous People Mandatory Representative (IPMR), said the present situation of the Lumad has worsened and became “more pitiful” after the incident.
“If indeed the fire is intentional, the perpetrators must be made accountable and victims will be given justice,” said Sudagar.
Councilor Librado recalled that the Lumad issue started when IP committee chair Representative Nancy Catamco “sued and ordered the Lumad to go home in their homelands” even without the resolution of their demands to pull out military troops from the community.
“Lumads are being on top of the victims of human rights violations perpetrated by the militia forces,” Librado said.
She said that the incident vividly portrays that the IPs, who are mostly Manobos, are being targeted “whether they are in their ancestral lands or even in sanctuaries like that in UCCP Haran.”
“Last December, some of the Lumad evacuees went home, yet they return once more after series of harassment, red tagging and killings were perpetrated by the military,” Librado said.
Davao is home for harassed Lumad
Librado believed that the main reason why the Lumad are here in Davao since the city is safer for them.
“But with the persistence of AFP and the likes of Alamara that attack them in various forms like the fire incident, where are they headed now?” she said.
Citing figures from Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of Human Rights, Librado said since the Aquino administration 57 became victims of extra judicial killings in Southern Mindanao of which 22 of them are Lumad.
Just this year, from January 11 to February 9, 7 peasant Lumads were killed in Compostela Valley and all of them are vocal critics of militarization and mining in the area.
“Leaders of the Lumad groups say that they do not trust in vice government agencies like the Commission of Human Rights (CHR) and Department of Social Welfare and Development(DSWD). For them, social justice does not exist because time and again they are victims of oppression,” she said.
Councilors should visit Haran
Librado said the councilors should visit the evacuation camp in UCCP Haran “to witness the struggles of the Lumad and assist the needs of the victims.”
She also called for the resumption of peace talks and addressing the root cause of the armed conflicts.
“We cannot just turn a blind eye or a deaf ear for the plea of help, let us take collaborative action and be with them in their quest of just and lasting peace, let us join their call to end all forms violations and oppression as they are also human that is entitled with the same right that we claim,” she said.
The councilors’ calls to probe into the incident comes after Mayor Rodrigo Duterte ordered the police to find evidence whether the incident was indeed a case of arson.
Initial investigation of the Bureau of Fire Protection revealed there found traces of evidence — a backpack with 1.5 liters of gasoline and a torch found in the property — but perpetrators are yet to be found.(davaotoday.com)