By JOHN RIZLE L. SALIGUMBA
DAVAO CITY – A legislator described “preposterous and wild fabrications” the case of “serious illegal detention and child abuse” which was filed against him and seven other Lumad (indigenous people in Mindanao) leaders and human rights advocates for allegedly preventing a child evacuee and her family from leaving their sanctuary at the United Church of Christ in Philippines (UCCP) Haran Compound in Davao City.
“There is now a clear and orchestrated move by the military and their cabal of manipulators to cover up the humanitarian crisis that exists in Haran and the Lumad communities in Mindanao because of militarization. These trumped-up charges against us are acts of desperation,” said Bayan Muna partylist Representative Karlos Ysagani Zarate.
A copy of the criminal charges obtained by Davao Today indicated that the complainant was the Davao City Police Station 2, Women and Children Protection Division who based their complaint on three affidavits and other evidence.
The complaint named Zarate, former Bayan Muna Rep. Joel Virador, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Southern Mindanao Secretary General Sheena Duazo, lumad leaders Kerlan Fanagel and Datu Ginumao Andil, peasant leader Tony Salubre, Juno Marteen Vegas and Malaya Genotiva of the Kabataan Partylist as respondents.
The complaint came after the police and government agencies and North Cotabato 2nd District Representative Nancy Catamco attempted to force lumads to vacate the Haran compound last month in a supposed “rescue” operation.
The attempt failed as no Lumads came out even after Davao City Vice-Mayor Paolo Duterte intervened and left the gates open for the Lumads to go out.
A commotion ensued when a minor and her mother came out of a wire fence which the police called an “escape”.
Bayan Muna said the 14-year old girl whose affidavit was used as part of the complaint “claimed that she was raped by soldiers in Talaingod, Davao del Norte.”
“Before she could file the rape charges, she was spirited off by the military during the July 23 violent warrantless raid of the UCCP Haran Compound by the police, military and paramilitary forces on the instigation of [Catamco],” said the press release.
Bayan Muna said earlier charges of serious illegal detention, trafficking and kidnapping were also filed by the police against 15 persons, including two UCCP pastors and two nuns.
Bayan Muna said the cases are also in connection with the case of 700 lumad bakwits from Talaingod and Kapalong towns, Davao del Norte and San Fernando town, Bukidnon who are now housed at the Haran compound.
Zarate is not a respondent in the case, but his name and picture, which he said was obtained from his Facebook account, were attached in the annexes.
Zarate said that they are “undaunted by the false charges.”
“The people behind these charges are mistaken if they believe that these will deter, silence or scare us from pursuing our advocacies to defend human rights, particularly the rights of the Lumad people,” Zarate said. He said they “will not take these sitting down.”