Anakbayan Toronto strongly condemns the latest military and paramilitary attack on the rights of Lumad evacuees in a church compound. On January 24, members of Alamara, a paramilitary group backed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), broke into the sanctuary of almost 500 Lumad evacuees at UCCP Haran in Davao City.
This attack comes 10 days after the Regional Peace and Order Council-11 (RPOC-11) issued a resolution demanding the closure of the church compound. Recently, Police Regional Officer-(PRO) Davao spokesperson Major Eudisan Gultiano and PRO-Davao director Police Brigadier General Filmore Escobal supported the recent resolution to close Haran, citing Haran as a fake evacuation centre.
UCCP Haran is a church compound sheltering Lumad evacuees since 1994. Since then it has become a sanctuary for Indigenous peoples who have been impacted by militarization, land grabbing, and the plunder of the environment.
Last summer, Anakbayan Toronto visited Haran for a few days where they were able to interact with volunteer teachers and Lumad students. When asked how often the police and intelligence officers visit the area, Lumad replied, “They would just go there and start asking where this [Lumad leaders and organizers] person lives.”
They shared that they usually peek at the walls made out of worn bricks and tarpaulins to ask questions about Lumad leaders and organizers who are living in Haran.
“They would just go there and start asking where this [Lumad leaders and organizers] person lives.”
The AFP and the PNP accused bakwit schools of teaching Lumad students of subversive ideologies and of armed training for the New People’s Army. These claims are without evidence and the military forces coerce Lumad to publicize lies regarding evacuation centres such as Haran and bakwit schools by threatening to kill them.
This is a tactic used by the Armed Forces to recruit members for the Alamara paramilitary group whose membership is composed of Lumad.
Instead of protecting the Lumad from greedy foreign corporations and investors, the AFP and the PNP have put their efforts using Filipino’s taxes to arm paramilitary groups to terrorize Lumad communities and force them to evacuate. Instead of providing them with education and health services, the President has been busy with lavish travels to Davao city and busy with protecting his cronies like Sen. Ronald dela Rosa with his cancelled US visa.
This blatant attack on the Lumad in Mindanao shows that Duterte lifting of Martial Law is merely a facade to pacify calls for a just and lasting peace in the region, especially by the Lumad. The Filipino people know that this remains a stunt while economic destruction, political persecution and displacement of communities continue.
This vicious attack is only the latest from President Duterte’s fascist administration. Raids, coercion, and trumped up charges from planting fake evidence are popular tactics under Duterte’s “whole-of-nation” counterinsurgency approach through his National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Struggle (NTF-ELCAC). The Indigenous peoples and struggling Filipinos remain strong despite the intensification of attacks on institutions, organizations, and individuals under Duterte’s counterinsurgency approach.
As Filipino youth in the diaspora, we know that history sides with the people and that attacks on Indgeneous peoples, on evacuees, and on the most exploited will not quell the people’s movement for a just and free Philippines. It is crucial that we struggle to dismantle these systems that further seek to target the most marginalized by joining the unfinished struggle for genuine liberation and a just and lasting peace in the Philippines.
All photos via Sabokahan IPwomen on Facebook.