DAVAO

Ledesma: Haran

Sunbursts

HARAN is a holding place for members of indigenous peoples (Lumad). It is based in Davao City and being supervised by the United Church of Christ in the Philippines in cooperation with other religious groups and non-government organizations. Why the IPs, and seemingly only the IPs, are herded in Haran has been intriguing. The lumads are supposed to be sheltered there to be extended assistance but their presence in rallies and demonstrations invites curiosity. Any which way you look at it, the lumad are being exploited to the hilt.

I first heard of Haran when it opened its doors to IPs from then Compostela Valley Province, Bukidnon, Agusan and Surigao provinces, Cotabato and from Talaingod, Davao del Norte for what the public thought was just part a social outreach program of the church. With all its intelligence apparatus the Philippine National Police never seemed to mind the existence of Haran and why, for a number of years, indigenous peoples from far flung areas are methodically housed in this “shelter”. In not a few instances have we seen these innocent people donning their native attire and participating in rallies that denounce human rights violations, “hamletting”, agrarian and environment issues. Their colorful attire and their faces make for a good propaganda materials but sadly in interviews done with some of them it is apparent that they are not aware of what are they shouting for and why they are there in the first place.

Why they are herded in Haran in Davao City and why they are used in rallies instead of staging their gripes in their respective provinces is quite perplexing on the surface. The reasons however are simple and yet abominable. UCCP and other religious groups either wittingly or unwittingly into the whole drama as some of their leaders could be members of NGOs or with the legal fronts of the CPP/NPA/NDF. Think of why Pres. Rodrigo Duterte had repeatedly stated that he is declining assistance from European donor foundations to local beneficiary foundations. He knew that donations through local NGOs are not spent for projects that the beneficiary foundations described in their feasibility studies but to the wrong pockets or shared with leftists fronts.

Here are the hard and simple facts. What interest donor foundations in EU are those that pertain to human rights, hunger, illiteracy, and about environment. The reasons why Davao City is the favorite staging ground of NGOs for rallies and demonstrations are basically on account of its free press and the fact that the city is the economic and communication center in Mindanao. Demos and rallies are extensively covered by print and broadcast media to include those who use internet platforms. Photos of screaming demonstrators and placards and video clips of incendiary speeches that are printed in the local newspapers and shown on TV are veritable materials that are included in the project studies sent by the NGOs for funding assistance.

It is noteworthy moreover that recently the police authorities and the local government units finally decided to undertake a probe into the operations of Haran. With the number of NPA rebels returning to the folds of the law, the Chieftains of the lumad communities finally mustered enough courage to seek government intervention to retrieve the members of their tribes who are still held practically incommunicado in that “safe house”. The investigation, I understand, involves not only its closure but also to unmask those who are behind the hamlet who had been hiding in the mantle of religion and piety.


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