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Alamara lays siege on Lumad sanctuary

Armed paramilitary forces laid siege to a church compound housing indigenous peoples refugees in President Rodrigo Duterte’s home turf of Davao City Sunday morning, January 26, terrorizing Lumad children in their sanctuary.

Around 50 members of the paramilitary Alamara descended at the Haran compound of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) at nine o’clock in the morning, brandishing bolos and threatening the terrified refugees inside.

The bandits carried placards alleging that the UCCP brainwashed the Manobo refugees to resist ongoing mining activities in their ancestral lands in the Pantaron Mountain Range.

Manobo refugees prepare to evacuate the sanctuary area as Alamara bandits surround their compound. (Kilab Multimedia photo)

Some of the Alamara bandits wielded bolos and wire cutters and managed to enter the compound, forcing the refugees staying at the sanctuary area to seek refuge inside the UCCP office building.

Manobo leaders faced off with the Alamara and prevented them from overwhelming the compound.

UCCP Southeast Mindanao Jurisdictional Area Bishop Hamuel Tequis arrived at 10 a.m. to confront the Alamara as police officers also arrive to help ease the tension.

The police however refused to arrest the Alamara members who broke into UCCP compound. It also prevented members of the local media to enter the compound to cover the refugees’ press conference.

Davao city vice mayor Sebastian Duterte later arrived to broker a dialogue between the bishop, the refugees and the Alamara.

The Alamara attackers reportedly wanted to haul the refugees back to their communities in Kapalong and Talaingod, Davao del Norte.

UCCP Bishop Tequis and Davao City vice mayor Sebastian Duterte inside the besieged church compound and Lumad sanctuary.

Bishop Tequis said his church continues to stand firm on their commitment to serve the indigenous peoples in Davao region.

“By doing our duty to act as shepherds of the poor and the deprived we manifest our unwavering commitment to defend the rights of those who are deprived of their civil liberties,” Tequis said in a statement.

The bishop said the continuing harassment and possible filing of charges against UCCP Haran Mission Center is “a threat against the commitment of the church to do Christ’s mission of ministering to the oppressed and the marginalized.”

UCCP Haran had been serving as a sanctuary for Lumad forcibly displaced by violence and attacks by paramilitary and military groups in the region since the early 1990s. Earlier, it has been attacked by bandits, including an attempt to burn down the temporary Lumad school put up for its young refugees numbering around 200.

The Manobo refugees at the UCCP Haran office building. (Kilab Multimedia photo)

“[UCCP Haran had] served as a home for victims of oppression and injustice. It has become a place of healing among them who have been distressed by intermittent harassment and violence committed against them. But more than these, UCCP Haran is a sanctuary of peace in keeping with God’s own purpose,” Tequis said.

The bishop urged the government not to intervene in the church’s “constructive and beneficial affairs” for the oppressed and downtrodden even as he condemned what he calls the vilification and crucifixion of the UCCP for simply “shepherding the Lumad.” # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Progressives pay tribute to pro-poor bishop

Progressive groups and leaders paid tribute to United Church of Christ in the Philippines Bishop Elmer Bolocon who died from a lingering illness last week.

In their eulogies, activists recalled how the late prelate opened his church to the poor of Tondo District.

They also recalled how Bishop Bolocon worked hard for peace even in his later years.

Bishop Bolocon is one of the outspoken UCCP Bishops who struggled against social injustices under various administrations, from Marcos to the current Duterte government. (Videography by Ivan Dexter Tolentino and Esther Anne Cabrillas / Editing by Jo Maline D. Mamangun) Read more

UCCP, Lumad accuse Philippine Army and Alamara of burning Haran

MANILA–United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) bishops expressed outrage at the arson attack against their church compound at Haran, Davao City where hundreds of Lumad evacuees have sought refuge early morning of Wednesday, February 24.

UCCP general secretary general Bishop Reuel Marigsa said they are angry and worried over the apparent arson that wounded five Lumad evacuees, including three children. The victims suffered third degree burns.

“It is clear to us that the burning of UCCP Haran’s Waltertong and Gonzalez cottages was deliberate, as plastic bottles containing gasoline were found around the compound,” Marigsa said.

Marigsa also said that the part of their cyclone fence has been cut for access into the property.

Six UCCP bishops attended the condemnation rally at the Boy Scouts’ Monument in Quezon City last night, including Marigsa, his executive assistant Arthur Asi, Metro Manila Bishop Marino Inong, Northwest Mindanao Bishop Melar Labuntog and Western and Central Visayas Bishop Jezer Bertuldo. The bishops are gathered in Manila for their regular national executive committee meeting.

Marigsa said the attack may only be part of the counterinsurgency operations by government forces through the paramilitary group Alamara.

“It has always been the Alamara that is trying to intimidate us. They keep on trying, but we are not afraid,” Marigsa said.

The UCCP national executive committee vowed to continue to provide sanctuary to the Lumad refugees in their Haran compound.

The Pasaka Confederation of Lumad Organizations in Southern Mindanao also said the attack was premeditated as they have been receiving information that the Haran compound would be burned to the ground.

Pasaka secretary general Jong Monzon said that a datu who sought refuge inside the Haran compound overheard Philippine Army soldiers and the Alamara planning to burn it down if the Lumad refugees refuse to leave.

Monzon said that Kapalong (Davao del Norte) Manobo Datu Dul-om Tumagsa was among those forcibly taken to Davao City by the Alamara and the 60th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army to join a series of rallies in front of the Haran Compound. They were led by Alamara datus Ongging and Larry Mansaloon.

It was then that Tumagsa heard about the Philippine Army and the Alamara’s plan to burn the church compound and the refugee center to the ground and even kill the Lumad evacuees, Monzon said.

Tumagsa decided to bolt the Alamaras and brought his families to Haran to seek refuge themselves.

“Sadly, the threats Datu Dul-om warned us about were carried out,” Monzon said.

Not involved

The Philippine Army denied involvement in the incident.
“The Philippine Army is not involved in the incident. The accusation is malicious (and) has no basis at all,” its spokesperson Col. Benjamin Hao said.

“That is part of the figment of imagination of those who are cohorts of the NPA (New People’s Army),” Hao added.

When sought for clarification if he was accusing the UCCP and the Pasaka as NPA cohorts, Hao replied “Only NPAs have the reason to accuse us. Lahat na lang ibinabato sa amin and, up to now, wala namang napapatunayan.” (We are accused of just about anything and, up to now, nothing has been proven.)

History of arson

Monzon enumerated a series of arson attacks against the Lumads, however.

He cited the burning of four Lumad houses and a cooperative center in White Culaman in Kitaotao, Bukidnon last August; the burning of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural Development (Alcadev) cooperative store in Sitio Han-yan, Lianga, Surigao del Sur last September; and the burning of the Alcadev teachers’ cottage in Agusan del Sur last October.

“These burnings have been perpetrated by the paramilitary groups under the direction of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. They are the ones who threaten us,” Monzon said.

Meanwhile, victims of the Haran burning suffered a restless night.

“The Lumad evacuees refused to stay inside their makeshift huts here at the refugee center and instead laid on the ground all night. Still, they could not sleep,” Monzon said.

“The two-year old victim was crying all night because of the pain on his hands and legs,” he said. (by Raymund B. Villanueva. Featured image above courtesy of Bong del Rosario/Kilab Multimedia. Video below by Kilab Multimedia)