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Rights violation disguised as rescue operation

01:32 AM July 28, 2015

I CAN’T understand why a congresswoman should be forcing indigenous peoples to go back to their homes without listening to their reasons for evacuating their village in the first place.

The forcible entry of antiriot cops, soldiers and local paramilitary combatants into the UCCP Haran Compound, an evacuation center in Davao City, and the bloody dispersal of Lumad evacuees last July 23 were a clear violation of human rights. Disguised as a “rescue operation,” this reportedly had the support of North Cotabato Rep. Nancy Catamco.

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I was there. I saw the police tear down the evacuation center’s gate—this while classes, with some 300 Lumad children in attendance, were going on. Then the police started to attack with their truncheons the unarmed Lumad who tried to block the entrance. The women and schoolchildren could only scream in horror at the sight of violence and blood.

The children were immediately brought to Haran’s main building and kept safely inside a room. A 12-year-old pupil then asked me if he could help in keeping the police from entering. Of course, I dissuaded him, telling him it was not yet his time. He then rued, wondering why the soldiers would not leave them alone in peace: “Didto sa bukid, mahadlok gyud mi kay magkampo sila sa among mga balay ug eskwelahan; karon diri sa ubos, hadlokon na pud mi nila unya pugson nga paulion. Asa na lang man diay mi ani moadto(In the mountains, we were afraid because soldiers would just set up camp in our homes and schools, and now down here they continue to scare us, and then force us to go back where we do not feel safe. So where else can we go to find refuge)?”

How I wished then to find the words to explain to him the conflict. But at that moment I could only assure him that things would end up right. That we and their parents will defend them at all costs, because they and all the Lumad didn’t deserve that kind of treatment. And that no matter what the congresswoman and the police would claim, “rescue operation” or not, it was apparent who the aggressors were, and certainly they were not the evacuees in Haran.

—RIUS VALLE,

Save Our Schools Network, [email protected]

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TAGS: Davao City, evacuation center, indigenous, letter, Nancy Catamco, North Cotobato, opinion, Violence
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