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Bishops, faith-based human rights defenders condemn attack against Lumad on sacred grounds

“Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people.” —Isaiah 10:1-2a, NIV

The structured and systematic violence against the Lumad has increased with repugnant aggressive attacks directed at them and their right to their ancestral land and self-determination. Amid the land-grabbing and plunder of indigenous territories caused by giant corporations in plantation farming, mining and logging, the government’s incendiary attitude toward the Lumad has threatened their right to a peaceful and dignified existence.

The most recent case of violence against the Lumad is an attack of state-supported paramilitary group Alamara on the more than 500 Lumad evacuees at the United Church of Christ in the Philippines Haran in Davao City at around 9:20 am on Jan. 25, 2020. UCCP Haran has been welcoming displaced Lumad since 1994.

Alamara, armed with bolos, tore down the fences of the Church-owned compound and forced themselves in. Later on, police cordoned off the property, even preventing media from attending a press conference.

This incident unfolded days after Region XI Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) recommended among others the closure of UCCP Haran which, for years, has been providing shelter to internally displaced indigenous people fleeing the militarization of their tribal communities in Cotabato, Davao del Norte, and Compostela Valley. Present during the volatile event was Davao del Norte Governor Edwin Jubahib, who authored the resolution. He reportedly urged the Lumad of UCCP Haran to go home.

What greatly alarms us in the South Central Luzon Bishops Conference and Ramento Project for Rights Defenders (SCLBC-RPRD) of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) is that the shutdown order and forcible entry into UCCP Haran were carried out by government authorities and an affiliate/auxiliary paramilitary group.

Lumad in Mindanao now feel unsafe as the situation in UCCP Haran clearly displays government involvement. This makes explicit the reality of absolute violations of the rights of indigenous peoples and those supporting their cause. The Lumad are fleeing the militarization and destruction of their tribal communities. The Jan. 25 attack shows that the injustice and inhumane treatment dog the Lumad, even in sacred grounds.

Making matters worse for the Lumad, these tacit violations are committed with the complicity of the legal and security institutions of the state. Collaborating with each other, the RPOC and Regional Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict allowed a deed that threatened the Lumad refugees and church people staying at UCCP Haran.

SCLBC-RPRD strongly condemn the attacks on the indigenous people in UCCP Haran and in other parts of Mindanao, and the shameless use of the state’s law enforcement agencies to this end. We decry the attempt to close UCCP Haran. We also strongly call on President Rodrigo Duterte and his government to uphold the rights of the Lumad people and their struggle for self-determination through an alternative development plan for their communities and territories that are focused on indigenous rights and environmental protection.

Fr. Jonash Joyohoy
Executive Director, RPRD

Bp. Rowel Arevalo
Chairperson, SCLBC

Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle
January 25, 2020

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