“Is the CHR serious with its intention to get to the roots of the problems of the Lumad evacuees?”
By DEE AYROSO
MANILA – An indigenous Lumad leader expressed disappointment at the public inquiry held by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in Davao City on Sept. 25, saying it had failed to probe the human rights violations by Philippine Army and paramilitary men in Mindanao.
Kerlan Fanagel, a Blaan and the chairperson of Pasaka, said the CHR focused on the condition of the evacuees at the United Council of Churches in the Philippines (UCCP) Haran center in Davao City, instead of probing the reasons why the Lumad evacuated in the first place, and had refused to go home.
“While staying in evacuation centers is a difficult sacrifice for some 700 Manobos in UCCP Haran, the real difficulty is not being able to return to their communities in Talaingod and Kapalong because of the presence of armed soldiers and the paramilitary Alamara threatening them,” he said in a statement.
The CHR even proposed to divide the evacuees at UCCP and transfer some of them to another facility.
Fanagel said Lumad leaders, Datu Kaylo Bontulan of Salugpungan Ta’tanu Igkanugon and Karadyawan chairperson Datu Mintroso Malibato both raised the forced recruitment by the paramilitary Alamara, the encampment of soldiers in the houses and schools, and threats and interrogations on leaders and residents.
“Yet, why didn’t the commissioners bother to probe and ask details about how these soldiers and the Alamara have threatened the lumads, children and teachers?” Fanagel said. Although he was invited as a resource speaker to the inquiry, Fanagel was not given a chance to speak.
“The CHR skirted these issues, and in this public inquiry they only looked on surface issues such as the conditions in the evacuation center,” he said. “Is the CHR serious with its intention to get to the roots of the problems of the Lumad evacuees?” Fanagel said.
CHR commissioners Roberto Cadiz and Leah Tanodra-Armamento, instead asked the Manobo leaders if they will also ask the NPA to leave their communities. They asked the same question to the support groups for the Lumad, and demanded to be answered only with a “yes or no.”
Fanagel said the CHR’s mode of questioning “forces the Lumad to take a stand in government counterinsurgency,” which has taken the form of massive military operations, with the implementation of the Indigenous Peoples Peace and Development Outreach Program (IP-PDOP) under the Oplan Bayanihan.
The presence of soldiers and paramilitary in Lumad communities has triggered massive evacuation, specially with the recent killings.
CHR Chairman Chito Gascon had ordered the probe into the killings and attacks on Lumad by soldiers and paramilitary groups. In a dialogue with Lumad leaders and victims on Sept. 18, Gascon pledged to investigate the complaints filed by the Lumad groups.
“The Lumads do not want to be pitied. The Lumads want justice and peace in their communities. The peace not found in the gun or in any counter-insurgency program, but rather in peace that provides services to the Lumads and respects their right to culture and ancestral domain,” Fanagel said.