Please join us in calling for an independent investigation on the burning of the evacuation camp of Lumad at the compound of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) in Davao City on February 24, 2016. Let us join hands in calling for an end to the harassment of Lumad evacuees and the pullout of military troops in Talaingod, Davao del Norte and Bukidnon where the Lumad evacuees came from.
ACCOUNT OF THE INCIDENT
Jong Monzon, secretary general of PASAKA, a federation of Lumad organizations in the Southern Mindanao region, narrated that at 2:30 a.m. on February 24, 2016, evacuees woke up to the smell of gasoline poured on the canvas roofs of their tents at the evacuation center. Immediately after, the tents were set aflame when a lighted torch was thrown in. Five makeshift houses were already consumed by the fire when it was put out. Monzon said that he and other leaders went out after extinguishing the fire to report to the authorities about the incident. On their way, they saw the gasoline container that was used by the perpetrators.
Monzon and several other leaders immediately called the local 911 to report the incident. Media personnel and police officials responded to the scene and interviewed some of the Lumad evacuees, including Monzon. Monzon recounted that at the middle of the interview, a pedicab driver approached them to report that another fire has started in the dormitories of the UCCP compound, which was roughly 100 meters from the evacuation camp. The dormitory houses Haran workers and students.
Witnesses said that something was thrown into the vicinity of the dormitory which caused the explosion. Later investigations found that two lines of barbed wires were cut by the perpetrators to enter the UCCP compound. A bag containing a 1.5 liters soft drink bottle full of gasoline was also found.
Five were hurt during the incident, with three needing hospitalization, including two children. The children suffered burns when the canvas roofs melted and fell on the children’s feet. Some also had burns in their hands. The victims were sent to a hospital, but were denied attention. Hospital authorities claimed there was no recommendation from the 911 personnel. The injured are now under the care of health workers and medics inside the Haran compound.
The perpetrators were described by those in the evacuation center as three men, aboard a motorcycle. A white cap, which belonged to the one of the perpetrators was even left behind, stuck in the cyclone wires.
Initial reports from the Bureau of Fire Protection in Davao City pointed to arson.
The incident is part of a series of harassments and threats, which are no longer new to the evacuees seeking shelter in UCCP-Haran. Monzon reports that the military and members of the ALAMARA paramilitary group held a rally outside the UCCP once.
Monzon stated that as early as December 17 last year, ALAMARA has already threatened to burn the evacuation center in UCCP.
On July 23, 2015, however, Nancy Catamco, representative of the 2nd district of North Cotabato, brought anti-riot policemen and buses to force the Lumad evacuees to return to their communities. The incident resulted in a skirmish between the evacuees and the police and paramilitay elements.
The more than 700 evacuees started to arrive at the UCCP- Haran, batches, starting February 2015. Most them are from Talaingod and Kapalong, Davao del Norte, while a number came from Kitaotao in Bukidnon province. The Lumad fled their communities when soldiers and military-backed ALAMARA militia forces occupied their communities and forcibly recruited them into the paramilitary group.
The continuing harassment on the Lumad evacuees seeking refuge at the UCCP Haran, and the insistence of state agencies to force them back to their communities, show a lack of understanding of their plight and a lack of concern for their safety and welfare.
Send letters, emails or fax messages calling for:
- The immediate investigation of the incident to be conducted by an independent body;
- An end to the continued harassment and intimidation of Lumad in and out of their communities;
- The immediate pullout of government troops from the Lumad communities;
- The disbandment of all paramilitary groups;
- The Philippine Government to withdraw its counterinsurgency program Oplan Bayanihan, which victimizes innocent and unarmed civilians; and
- The Philippine Government to adhere to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and all the major Human Rights instruments that it is a party and signatory
You may send your communications to:
H.E. Benigno C. Aquino III
President of the Republic
JP Laurel St., San Miguel
Voice: (+632) 564 1451 to 80
Fax: (+632) 742-1641 / 929-3968
Sec. Teresita Quintos-Deles
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process
Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP)
7th Floor Agustin Building I
Pasig City 1605
Voice:+63 (2) 636 0701 to 066
Fax:+63 (2) 638 2216
Ret. Lt. Gen. Voltaire T. Gazmin
Secretary, Department of National Defense
Room 301 DND Building, Camp Emilio Aguinaldo,
de los Santos Avenue, Quezon City
Voice:+63(2) 911-6193 / 911-0488 / 982-5600
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Emmanuel L. Caparas
Secretary, Department of Justice
Padre Faura St., Manila
Direct Line 521-8344; 5213721
Trunkline: 523-84-81 loc.214
Fax: (+632) 521-1614
Jose Luis Martin Gascon
Chairperson, Commission on Human Rights
SAAC Bldg., UP Complex, Commonwealth Avenue
Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines
Voice: (+632) 928-5655, 926-6188
Fax: (+632) 929 0102
Please send us a copy of your email/mail/fax to the above-named government officials, to our address below:
URGENT ACTION Prepared by:
KARAPATAN Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights
2/F Erythrina Building
#1 Maaralin cor Matatag Streets
Brgy. Central, Diliman,
Quezon City 1100 PHILIPPINES
Voice/Fax: (+632) 435 4146