I remember in my very first article with the Times nearly three years ago, I said I would refrain from writing about topics of political nature. Well, I lied. However, as compromise to that earlier pledge, and to still be well inside the chicken-wire fence of opinion writing, I might just as well rattle the shark cage a bit in this just one piece.
As a backgrounder for some living under a rock, there are at present, some 400 lumads who still reside inside the private compound owned by a non-Catholic church in the city proper. This, after fleeing from counter-insurgency military operations in North Cotabato and two Davao provinces. They have been there since 2015, with some 100 families already returning to their homes in 2017. They have done so after the government had promised them safe haven and assistance via development in their areas.
Now let me just scratch the surface here, and there is really no need to dwell into the intricate (salimoot in Visayan) details.
The government side (which includes the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the education sector (DepEd), and local governments like that of Davao del Norte) believes that the presence of these evacuees at Haran is a politically-motivated plan by leftist groups to use them for street mobilizations against the government, and as such, they are holding them hostage against their will. At least, that is the accusation.
Most recently, the overseer of our excellent educational system, the DepEd, has proclaimed that the initiatives done by volunteer teachers inside the evacuee compound are illegal because they do not conform with the standards of the department. Some political personalities have even insinuated that these supposed-school activities are nothing but indoctrination sessions that espouse revolutionary thought.
Along with this, and many other allegations, the burden of proof is still out there somewhere, lost in the rhetoric of politics that is only heard in their halls of power. Meanwhile, whatever the truth is, it lies buried and the sad fact remains that these Lumads, whom we ceremoniously love to declare as brothers and sisters, whose art and culture we use for enshrining our surroundings to thus proclaim we are actually one race and one people, continue to live as evacuees in our backyard.
As a postscript, their political rhetoric has borne fruit finally, as these political forces have helped effect an official resolution from the Regional Peace & Order Council to immediately close down Haran, the private property of a lesser church, to thereby send the remaining 400 Lumad evacuees, or refugees, back to their localities where the realities of war and uncertain future await them. A sad event indeed, state powers ganging up on indigenous Filipino citizens turned refugees and under the care of a less-dominant sect, while the Catholic church and nation looks on. Salute!