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Evacuees, not captives

02:05 AM August 10, 2015

THIS IS in response to Perry Valdez’s letter titled “Free the IPs from leftists; let DSWD, NCIP take care of them” (Opinion, 8/4/15).

Valdez is actually proposing a ludicrous idea. The fact is, the government’s counterinsurgency program, Oplan Bayanihan, targets not only armed revolutionary insurgents but also civilians and people’s organizations. In the course of the program’s intensified military operations in the countryside, government armed forces have garrisoned communities and homes of indigenous peoples, used schools as encampments and harassed residents and local leaders by branding them supporters of the insurgents.

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The Department of Social Welfare and Development and the Department of Education are not only powerless to stop this; they are in fact conscious and willing participants in the “soft approach” component of this vicious counterinsurgency program. In May 2015, the DSWD and the DepEd even tried to close 25 community schools in the Lumad communities in Talaingod, Davao del Norte. Who then will guarantee the safety of the indigenous peoples in these remote areas? Why question the motives of the evacuees who, fearing for their lives, sought safety and refuge in a church sanctuary?

The indigenous peoples’ ancestral land, resources and lives are under attack not only by soldiers of our own government but also by foreign companies hell-bent on transforming the Manobo’s ancestral lands into mining sites and monocrop plantations.

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This is not the first time that the Manobo from Talaingod fled their homes and communities. They had actually returned home before, only to flee again due to the presence of the military. Rep. Nancy Catamco, who instigated the unwanted rescue of the Manobo evacuees and the raid of their peaceful sanctuary in the UCCP Haran Mission House in Davao City, is forcing them to return to the hellhole they have escaped from.

The police that used brute force and were supported by the Alamara, a notorious paramilitary group known for rights violations, injured 18 evacuees in the attempt to “free” them from their supposed “dismal” conditions at the UCCP Haran Mission House; they are the real terrorists, not the liberators they pretend to be.

If we want to save the indigenous peoples from further harm, let’s start by ending the militarization of what were once peaceful communities. We should also strive to uplift their socioeconomic condition, instead of sacrificing them on the altar of greed and foreign plunder. Comprehensive and thoroughgoing socioeconomic reforms and genuine social change will end hundreds of years of discrimination against our indigenous peoples (considered and treated as second-class citizens by some).

This is the only way we can save our brethren from profit-driven state violence and extermination.

—WINDY CARBONELL, Tunay na Alyansa ng Bayan Alay sa Katutubo, [email protected]

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TAGS: Department of Social Welfare and Development, DepEd, evacuees, nation, news, oplan bayanihan
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