DAVAO CITY: An official of the Police Regional Office in Davao Region (PRO-11) has denied that those who attempted to rescue indigenous people (IP) from the Haran compound of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) here were members of the Alamara paramilitary group.
“It is not true, they are tribal leaders who just want their fellow IP brothers and sisters to go back to their communities,” Brig. Gen. Filmore Escobal, PRO-11 director, said during a Saturday standoff when tribal leaders from Kapalong and Talaingod, Davao del Norte, led by Datu Guibang Apoga attempted to rescue IPs housed at the Haran Mission Center.
The Haran Mission Center, Escobal added, is a fake evacuation center and not accredited by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the school operating inside is not also accredited by the Department of Education (DepEd).
“They detained the IPs and there is an ongoing crime that we need to give an action. They have been deceiving the people,” he said.
Escobal asked the UCCP officials to cooperate and allow the IPs to return to their homes.
“We are helping those IPs gain freedom. I am asking Bishop Hamuel Tequis to cooperate and if he prevents these IPs to come out, we will also arrest him,” he said.
Tension ensued after Datu Apoga along with family members and relatives of those who were inside the center wanted to pull out the IPs and persuade them to go back to their respective tribal villages.
Davao del Norte Gov. Edwin Jubahib said Apoga along with other tribal leaders went to his office asking for assistance and transportation.
“I immediately responded to their request since it is for the betterment of their tribe. I provided transportation and food for their rescue,” Jubahib added.
Upon the arrival of the group at the Haran center around 9 a.m. on Saturday, tension broke out after some groups tried to break in and rescue the IPs inside, prompting the Davao City Police Office (DCPO) to intervene and deploy personnel to avoid further commotion.
Police Col. Kirby John Kraft, director of the DCPO, ordered a lockdown, barring entry and exit from the Haran center including journalists.
“We [want to] avoid commotion, that’s why we have to lock it down, “ Kraft said.
Meanwhile, the DSWD and City Social Services and Development Office have deployed social workers to help convince the IPs inside the center to return to their communities.
DSWD-11 Director Grace Subong, in an interview on Saturday, said the agency is always ready to accommodate the IPs should they decide to leave the Haran center.
Davao City Acting Mayor Sebastian Duterte arrived at the facility around 4 p.m. and held a dialogue with Bishop Hamuel Tequis, UCCP Southeast Mindanao Jurisdictional Area head.
“Despite the little tension, no one was hurt. It turned out peacefully,” Duterte said, adding that he suggested having a second round of talks for both camps to further discuss the fate of the IPs.
Davao del Norte Gov. Jubahib, along with Escobal, later arrived to talk with Tequis, who told the former that the center is a “sanctuary of peace” and they will continue to serve the IPs as mandated by their Church’s teaching.
In his meeting with Tequis and other IPs housed at the center, he presented the various program developments being implemented by the provincial government that benefit the IPs, particularly in Talaingod and Kapalong.
The monthly seed distribution, for instance, Jubahib said, will be their source of livelihood.
Apart from that, the provincial government through the National Housing Authority will build 300 houses in Talaingod and 100 houses in Kapalong exclusively for the IPs.
Jubahib said access roads were also opened and scholarship grants were given to the IPs.
“This will eventually change their living conditions if they will go back to their communities,” he added.
Responding to Datu Tungig Mansomuy-at‘s statement that they will only go back to their communities as soon as the military is pulled out from the areas and allow the Salugpongan schools to operate again, Jubahib said the military provides peace and protection in their areas while the DepEd-run schools were already established near the dismantled Salugpongan schools.
“The government put up these schools to provide good education to your children, so there is no reason to establish the Salugpongan schools,” he added.
The dialogue yielded five IPs deciding to go back to their communities: Hasmin Boolan 25; Angel Amansor 22; Amyan Andel 25; Mayha Andel 18; and one minor alias Jenelyn, all from Barangay Dagohoy, Talaingod, Davao del Norte.
They cited lack of water and food inside the facility.
“It is hard living inside the evacuation center,” Andel said.
Each received P10,000 from the Davao del Norte provincial government and was provided transportation to Talaingod.
Jubahib committed to providing scholarships to the young IPs.