Progressive groups condemned the torching of the Lumad evacuation center in Davao City.
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Various groups condemned the burning of the Lumad sanctuary in the United Church of Christ in Philippines (UCCP) Haran House in Davao City, at 2 a.m. today, Feb. 24.
An initial report by Kilab Multimedia said the Lumad sleeping in makeshift houses inside the compound were roused when fire broke out in one of the houses at 2 a.m. After a few minutes, they found the dormitory also ablazed, about a hundred meters away from evacuation camp.
Five people were hurt in the fire including two children.
Jong Monzon, secretary general of the Lumad organization Pasakkaday Salugpongan Kalimuddan (Pasaka) said in the report that policemen and fire investigators who responded pointed out that the fire was due to arson. Gasoline contained in plastic bottles and gallons were recovered outside the compound.
“This incident clearly aims to harass and kill us. We believe this is related to the threats received by the Lumad before the fire,” he added.
The Lumad, who are mostly from Davao del Norte and Bukidnon had been at the evacuation since April last year, as they escaped operations in their communities by soldiers and paramilitary groups, such as the Alamara. The killings of Lumad activists and threats on their communities and schools escalated last year.
Groups here in Manila condemned the incident, and called for an immediate investigation.
“Is there no safe place for the Lumad?” said the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) in a statement, saying the incident was meant to “terrorize the Lumad evacuees and their supporters.
Gabriela Women’s Party (GWP) Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan called the act “imprimatur to ethnocide.”
“The violations, harassment and killings continue and the Lumads are being attacked without end. This fact alone shows President Aquino government’s tolerance, if not its outright imprimatur to this ethnocide,” she said in a statement.
Kabataan Rep. Terry Ridon also called on both the national government and local Davao authorities, including Davao City mayor and presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte, to immediately investigate the incident.
“What are our national and local officials doing to protect the Lumad? The Lumad evacuees, victims of internal displacement, have sought refuge in UCCP, yet these paramilitary groups again proved that they will stop at nothing to harm them, even resorting to arson in this latest attack,” Ridon said.
He added that it is not the first time that the evacuation camp has been targeted. “We must note, however, that this new attack is even more pernicious, as the attackers seem hell-bent on killing the refugees through arson,” Ridon said, noting that last year, police forces led by Cotabato Rep. Nancy Catamco tried to forcibly enter Haran.
Women groups in Metro Manila said they are set join solidarity pickets and indignation rallies condemning the incident.
GWP Rep. Emmi De Jesus meanwhile dubbed the attack on Lumads as “Aquino’s Marcosian legacy that dampens the 30th year commemoration of the EDSA People Power uprising.” She said Aquino is no different from the dictator President, Ferdinand Marcos.
“Aquino government brutally kills those who defend their land. The people will hold this government accountable in all its crime just like what the people did 30 years after the Edsa people uprising. History will judge this government harshly and Aquino will be made accountable,” she said.
Meanwhile, GWP Mindanao spokesperson Bai Ali Indayla said the Lumad and Mindanaoans are not backing down despite the attacks. “We will continue defending our ancestral domain and territories being targeted by large scale mining and corporate plantations. We hold the Alamara, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Aquino government accountable and we will not be cowered.