THE Regional Peace and Order Council in Davao region is “heartless” for ordering the closure of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) Haran Compound, which for years, has been providing shelter to Lumad refugees displaced by the ongoing militarization in the indigenous communities.
The RPOC has insensitively and cruelly disregarded the plight of the Lumad staying at the church who fled their communities due to human rights violations perpetrated by paramilitary groups and state forces in their ancestral lands.
The move against the church institution would make the situation even worse for the Lumad people. The closure order aims nothing but to inflict further harm and trauma to the Lumads, especially the children. Most of the evacuees have been situated in Haran for almost five years and they have been calling the government to cease militarization in ancestral lands and investigate the alleged violations committed by military personnel. However, instead of heeding their demands, the government agencies persist in persecuting Lumad and the organizations supporting them.
Salinlahi noted that the closure order is based on recycled and fabricated allegation that UCCP church officials are committing violations of indigenous people’s rights, child trafficking and even kidnapping. This is absurd but it’s not surprising that our government agencies have resorted to this kind of fascist measure. We are referring to another closure order released by the Department of Education Region XI against 55 campuses of the Salugpongan Ta Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center (STTICLC).
We recall the statement of United Nations Special Rapporteur on Internally Displaced Persons Chaloka Beyani after his visit at UCCP Haran Compound in 2015. He said that he received reports about the displacement of lumads due to militarization of their ancestral lands and the closure of lumad schools by paramilitary forces Alamara and AFP. Beyani also included in his statement that the tribal leaders informed him that they were not detained at the UCCP against their will.
The persistent attacks against Lumad people and human rights groups are all happening by virtue of President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order 70 that institutionalizes whole-of-nation approach. Through coordinated actions, government agencies are using its mechanisms and the law to attack human rights organizations and individuals including marginalized and vulnerable groups that are critical to the government. (Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns)