“Rep. Nancy Catamco will endanger not only the Manobo evacuees in Davao, but also all indigenous peoples groups in the Philippines.”
by DEE AYROSO
MANILA – Indigenous peoples groups are calling for the removal of North Cotabato 2nd district Rep. Nancy Catamco as chairperson of the committee on indigenous cultural communities and indigenous peoples at the House of Representatives, saying she is “unfit” and a “threat” to the sector.
This morning, the indigenous peoples’ alliance Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (Katribu), Sulong Katribu Partylist and the National Council of Churches in the Philippines submitted a letter addressed to House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, urging him to remove Catamco as committee head, and to have the House ethics committee investigate her “misconduct” as a legislator.
“Catamco has proven that she does not genuinely represent us,” said Piya Malayao, secretary general of Katribu.
“She used the local police and Alamara, a vicious paramilitary group, to instigate an unwanted rescue. She is also forcing them to return to their militarized homes, which they have escaped from due to intensified harassment by the military,” she said in a statement.
The groups also picketed outside the gates of congress. To show their outrage, they threw mud packs at a tarpaulin with Catamco’s picture.
In the past weeks, Catamco, a Manobo, figured in a disagreement with Lumad bakwets and progressive groups, as she questioned their staying at the evacuation center. On July 15, a supposed dialogue distressed the Lumads as the solon brought in military officials, and even castigated the evacuees at the United Church of Christ in the Philippines Haran House in Davao City. Catamco also reportedly said the women and children evacuees should be removed from the center.
A week later, on July 23, Davao City police and members of the tribal paramilitary group, Alamara, forced their way inside the UCCP evacuation center and tried to force the 700 Lumad bakwets into buses and dump trucks that will bring them home.
“Her words gave the go signal for the attack and raid at the sanctuary in UCCP Haran, and even undermined Mayor (Rodrigo) Duterte’s order not to conduct any action without his presence in the city,” Malayao said.
“She is a thousand times guilty of usurpation of authority, and of being the champion, not of the indigenous peoples, but of the relentless Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP),” said Windel Bolinget, national chairperson of Sulong Katribu. He said that Catamco, instead of defending their rights, even “worsened the already miserable state” of indigenous peoples (IPs).
“They fled their ancestral lands, which embody their culture, heritage and life due to sustained cases of aerial bombings, massive harassment and encampment. Our indigenous peoples have bore the brunt of the sheer lack of government support when it comes to basic social services, and this irresponsibility also extends to the lack of respect for the IPs and their rights,” Bolinget said.
Malayao noted that 61 indigenous peoples have been killed by suspected state forces and paramilitary groups, and thousands have evacuated to evade military encampment and intensified operations in their communities under President Aquino’s Oplan Bayanihan.
“Katribu sees Catamco as a threat to their communities who are in peril due to the intensive military operations and whose lands are encroached and targeted for further extraction of mineral and other natural resources,” she said.