By Czarina Nicole Ong-Ki
The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has expressed alarm over the alleged forced entry of the bolo-wielding paramilitary group Alamara inside the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) Haran Compound, especially since there are 500 Lumad evacuees, including 236 children and infants, currently housed there.
The forced entry incident took place after a resolution was passed by the Region XI’s Regional Peace and Order Council ordering the closure of the UCCP Haran, citing alleged violations committed inside the shelter.
According to the allegations, there had been incidents of child abuse, serious illegal detention while engaging in human trafficking, and “various terroristic activities.”
“In light of the growing trend of red-tagging of groups that stand with the plight of the vulnerable sectors, we reiterate our reminder against such labels that pose threats and attacks to groups and communities,” said spokesperson Atty. Jacqueline Ann de Guia.
“In times of conflict, churches are zones of peace. Providing refuge and sanctuary to the disadvantage is considered as integral to their spiritual mission and insulated from political ideologies or leanings,” she added.
De Guia said that the government needs to ensure the best interest and welfare of the Lumad children, since they have already been displaced from their ancestral lands and are still recovering from disruption and conflict. “The Lumad children’s rights to life, survival, development, education, and to be with their families need to be guaranteed at all times,” she stressed.
Lumads will be the ones most affected by the closure order as well as any subsequent actions that will disrupt their lives.
“Hence, we urge the government to dialogue with the vulnerable indigenous people’s group constantly to provide a durable solution that will tackle the roots of their grievances and demonstrate genuine compassion and empathy in their recurring struggles,” she said.
Given the injustices they have already suffered, the CHR is calling for a comprehensive solution must be undertaken to restore their dignity and to empower them in their pursuit of self-determination.
“For our part, the CHR – Region XI deployed a quick response team Sunday, January 26, to probe the truth. A dialogue was conducted and the investigation shall continue to ensue.”