Lumad evacuees at the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) compound here have yet to decide if they would return home or stay at the evacuation center, City Vice Mayor Sebastian Duterte.
Duterte, who came to mediate the initial discussion on Saturday afternoon, has committed to assist in upcoming negotiation so that both camps could arrive at a “win-win solution” acceptable to both parties.
“Nag mediate lang ko to make sure dili mag kagubot atong negotiation. Naay gamay nga tension, luckily walay nahitabo nga altercation (I only mediated to make sure it would be orderly. There was a little tension but luckily there was no altercation),” the youngest son on President Rodrigo Duterte said.
He said the fate of the Lumad – either to return to their ancestral lands or stay at the center – would be tackled in the next dialogue.
Human rights groups and relatives of the Lumad evacuees staying at the UCCP’s Haran Center along Fr. Selga Street here agreed to hold another dialogue with government officials and church leaders on the demands of the evacuees before they may return home.
UCCP Bishop Hamuel Tequis yesterday said both camps have yet to set the date for the meeting where members of the Regional Peace and Order Council, Lumad leaders, City Mayor Sara Duterte, Davao del Norte Gov. Edwin Jubahib and church representatives are expected to participate.
The bishop reiterated the evacuees’ demand for a military pullout from their communities and the disbandment of the paramilitary group Alamara.
On Saturday morning, Gov. Jubahib led Lumad leaders in storming Haran to allegedly rescue his constituents detained at the compound.
A negotiation ensued that evening, facilitated by the Commission on Human Rights, that turned out to be positive, Tequis said.
The bishop said both parties agreed that the issues between the evacuees and their relatives be resolved among them customarily with no interference from the military and police.
He said both Lumad camps asked Mayor Duterte and Gov. Jubahib to sit down with them in the dialogue.
Tequis said the evacuees’ relatives returned home to Kapalong and Talaingod, Davao del Norte after the initial dialogue.
UCCP Bishop Modesto Villasanta also expressed dismay over Jubahib’s lack of propriety.
Villasanta said the governor should’ve instead sent a formal letter instead of resorting to such action because UCCP is willing to cooperate and engage in any dialogue.
He said the governor’s action was an attack to the ministry and the church condemns the action.
Villasanta said Jubahib has apologized for what happened and expressed willingness to pay for the damages done by his people to the center.
Tequis also said they might press charges against the police for failing to prevent the evacuees’ relatives from destroying the fence of the church when they barged inside the church compound.
Police Regional Director Filmore Escobal, however, downplayed the allegation, insisting it was a “rescue operation.”
“Anybody who would prevent the rescue of the IPs (indigenous peoples) will be taken into custody for committing a crime,” Escobal said. “As much as possible we are implementing maximum tolerance but it’s for the greater good of the IPs.”
Saying that Haran is a “fake” evacuation center, Escobal said they establishing evidence to prove that the families inside the compound are being held against their wills.
Gov. Jubahib, meanwhile, claimed they rescued at least 10 Lumad from the Haran during their operation last Saturday.
He said all the remaining Lumad will be out of Haran after the next round of dialogue.
The governor said he is only acting in behalf of his constituents who sought help to rescue their relatives.
Haran Center is the temporary shelter of the displaced Lumad from Davao del Norte, Davao de Oro, Bukidnon and Cotabato. Currently, the center shelters around 170 families, with at least 500 individuals, mostly children. (with reports from Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)
By Rhoda Grace Saron, Nicole Burlas and Mindanews
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