By ZEA IO MING C. CAPISTRANO
DAVAO CITY – A partylist lawmaker from Mindanao brought up the situation of the indigenous people evacuees in a church compound here in a meeting with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons.
Dr. Chaloka Beyani, UN SR on IDPs, is on his official visit in the Philippines to look into the human rights situation of IDPs, and examine government’s responses to internal displacement, including law and policy frameworks and governance structures.
Gabriela Women’s Partylist Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan met with Beyani in a meeting facilitated by the House of Representatives Committee on Human Rights on Wednesday.
Ilagan also raised concern on the recent attack on Lumad evacuees inside the church compound owned by the United Church of Christ in the Philippines.
On July 23 North Cotabato Rep. Nancy Catamco, current chairperson of the House of Representatives Committee on National Cultural Communities, led officials from the Department of Social Welfare and Development, National Commission on the Indigenous People, regional and city police and tribal leaders allegedly from the paramilitary group, Alamara to enter the evacuation center and “rescue” the lumad evacuees.
The IPs however, remained saying they will go home only if the military pulls out from their communities.
Ilagan said “it is imperative for the government to first address the call of Lumad evacuees to demilitarize their communities so that they can return.”
“The Lumads cannot be forced to return home. They will continue to resist any effort to make them return to their ancestral lands for as long as the military remains,” she said.
Ilagan told Davao Today that the meeting with Beyani “covered issues on displacement, but mainly on the bill on IDPs being tackled in congress.”
“I got the rapporteur’s commitment to give us a copy of the initial report he is making. The final official report will be given six months from now,” she said.
Ilagan said they are preparing a resolution for an investigation of the “violent and illegal entry into Haran even without the UN report.”
Ilagan said the meeting “is an opportune time to bring attention to the plight of Lumads, and how the Aquino government’s counter-insurgency program and its endorsement of large scale mining have resulted into the evacuation of tens of thousands of indigenous peoples.”
“The deployment and operations of some 55 army battalions of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in Mindanao and the recruitment of paramilitary groups to serve as goons for mining companies, have taken a heavy toll on the civilian population,” Ilagan said.
Ilagan cited reports from human rights group Karapatan which has documented 60, 155 victims of forced evacuation as of June 2015.
Ilagan said the meeting also highlighted the issue of some 441 individuals, mostly from the Blaan tribe in Sitio Akbual, Barangay Upper Suyan, Malapatan, Sarangani Province left their homes due to bombing, torture and interrogation, and food blockade in May to June.
Ilagan said the evacuation of “almost a thousand individuals from 15 villages in Agusan del Sur also left their homes due to military operations and encampment in Lumad schools run by the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) in January to March,” was also discussed.
Ilagan also scored the “continuing encampment of soldiers in Lumad communities and schools.”
“The schools, initiated by the Lumads built through the support of advocate groups and non-government organizations were tagged by the military as “NPA schools”. Since Aquino assumed the presidency in 2010, the Save Our Schools Network has documented over 200 cases of attacks on schools,” she said.