DAVAO CITY – Lumads said that like the Army who allegedly hurt them in their villages, the police also did it to them in the city amid an attempt to force them to go home.

“It is worse here, they (police) are worse than the Army. We thought we are safe here at Haran but the government doesn’t seem to let us live in peace,” said Datu Benito Bay-ao.

Bay-ao is a Datu (tribal leader) of the Salugpungan Ta Ta’nu Igkanugon organization of indigenous peoples in Talaingod, Davao del Norte. Salugpungan, with three other lumad communities from Kapalong, Davao del Norte and the province of Bukidnon sought refuge in the Haran compound of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines in Davao City since March. The Lumads number to over 700.

Last July 15, North Cotabato Representative Nancy attempted a dialogue between the lumads and the Army and government agencies.

But the dialogue did not end well as lumads walked out because they said Catamco “was forcing us to go home without assuring us of safety.”

On Wednesday, Catamco said in a press conference that they will “take the lumads out” of the Haran compound with the police. By Thursday morning, almost a hundred police troops arrived, including riot squads.

The lumads were prepared to meet them and a short verbal exchange occurred. The lumad leaders, the UCCP administrators and a representative of the Department of Social Welfare and Development held a dialogue amid the tension.

After the short dialogue, the datus and the DSWD in separate interviews said they agreed that the supposed “rescue” would be held off for another day. However, the police broke the Haran gates minutes after.

Children who were having their daily classes run scared, trembling and crying. Datu Mintroso Malibato of the IP group Karadyawan from Kapalong, Davao del Norte, was hurt on the forced entry of the police. Malibato’s traditional garb tore during the altercation.

“Even here, we are treated this way. The police couldn’t help us in our problem with the Army, it is clear who genuinely helps us,” he said.

Vice-Mayor Paolo Duterte intervened and assured Lumads who wanted to go out of Haran that he will escort them. But, no one came out.

Catamco later arrived at lunch in a dialogue with Duterte and the IP woman-leader Bai Bibyaon Ligkay.

Ligkay walked out on Catamco a few minutes after the dialogue.

Ligkay, during the dialogue, asked why they were brought with guns when they know that the lumads are afraid of guns. Ligkay told Catamco that she will not solve their problems.

Meanwhile, UCCP national leaders will hold a press conference on Friday regarding the incident.(davaotoday.com)

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