LAST Saturday was a tense moment in the UCCP Haran. We woke up to the news that some 30 Manobo Lumad stormed into the Haran compound, using bolo knives and wire-cutters to barge their way and causing panic to fellow Lumad who were staying because they are evacuees.
What diffused the tension were UCCP members, including its bishop, who tried to calm the situation before things turned to worse. Later that afternoon, Vice Mayor Baste Duterte arrived to allow a dialogue between leaders from the evacuees and a leader from the opposing group. Much later that evening, Davao del Norte Governor Edwin Jubahib arrived to explain his role in this matter and asked the evacuees to join him to return to the province, but the evacuees refused. The dialogues ended with no resolutions reached.
But let’s try to answer some questions. What provoked the incident in UCCP Haran last Saturday? Let’s trace a statement raised two weeks ago, by the Regional Peace and Order Council-11, which released a resolution, calling for the closure of UCCP Haran.
This resolution was filed by Governor Jubahib. Based on government’s Philippine News Agency post, the governor said the 500 Lumad evacuees were “being exploited by the communist rebel movement for ‘various terroristic activities’”.
Davao Oriental Governor Nelson Dayanghirang, the chair of this council, claimed UCCP is “committing child abuse and serious illegal detention offenses while engaging in human trafficking”.
The Philippine National Police also made statements, some of which are published in this newspaper, saying Haran is not an accredited evacuation center by the government’s Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
Then there is the Alamara, which the Lumad evacuees, and the teachers and advocates documented to have been recruited by soldiers that instead of keeping peace, are attacking the schools.
This can put in context what happened last Saturday. Gov. Jubahib in the dialogue said some Lumad people asked his help to bring these evacuees home. What happened instead was these Lumad destroyed a church property, caused public alarm and fear on the evacuees. Jubahib said he will pay for the damages.
Interestingly, Jubahib or the police did not apprehend any of the Lumad who caused the alarm and fear. Instead, we now have Police Region 11 Director Gen. Filmore Escobal saying they will study filing cases on UCCP for keeping the Lumad against their will.
Back to Jubahib, he offered the Lumad evacuees to go back to their villages, and offered them free housing and livelihood. But when the evacuees said they cannot go home if the Alamara are still existing and their Lumad schools need to be re-opened, the governor said he cannot do anything about it. Militarization is legal, he said. And the schools were declared illegal, he added.
It’s kind of complicated when all parties do not agree on how to see this issue. But let’s remember, these are local officials, police officers, who are sworn to uphold the law, and protect those especially the marginalized. But in this case, it seems the marginalized sector, the Lumad, along with the church are being accused of violating something they did not do.
Like I wrote in my previous column, it is strange how these officials define peace and order.