Evacuees reiterate call for local gov’t; church to broker MOA with military for pull-out

DAVAO CITY (Nabokasa/6 June) — Lumad and farmers who evacuated to Davao in search for safer grounds are appealing to the local government of Compostela Valley Province as well as church leaders to support their demands for a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the military so that they may finally be able to back home.

“We appeal to the local government and other agencies to heed our demands for peace. We’ve been here for 21 days, knocking on doors of the NCIP, the church, and the local government. We’ve also picketed the military command in the region but our calls for peace are unheard. We want to go home but only if there is an assurance that abuses won’t happen again,” Rey Guimboloy, the chairperson of the NABOKASA, the local Ata-Matigsalug organization in Compostela said.

Aside from safe passage, the evacuees demand a complete military pull-out from their communities, a stop to the human rights violations such the use of civilians as military guide and the use of civilian places such as homes, schools and places of worship for military purposes.

The evacuees also challenged the regional offices of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to perform their duties.

“What now is the response of the NCIP to the petition and human right cases we filed at its office? The only clear answer they told is that they do not have funds to help us. But more than that, what have they done?” Jimmy Saipan, a farmer from Brgy. Ngan also in Compostela town which has also been affected by the spate of military operations from April to May this year.

In some reports the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has already looked into the alleged series of abuses against Allan Autan who is one of the evacuees now staying at the Bankerohan Gym.

The report said that this may be “the first documented case of human rights abuses to be presented to Pope Benedict XVI.”

Reverend Jurie Jaime, a UCCP pastor and convener of the recently-formed Exodus for Justice and Peace supported the demands of the evacuees.

He said “The evacuees are yearning to go back home, especially since the children don’t want to miss school. But they want a strong agreement that they can hold on to.”

He added, “Our peace building efforts only go as far as the victims pursue peace. Here we see people who are fighting for justice and peace. They need the support of the civil libertarians and rights defenders especially the church and the real public servants in the local government.”

The Exodus for Justice and Peace was formally launched on May 27 in response to the series of forcible evacuations that happened in the Davao region since the start of the year.

Its head conveners are members of the major religious organizations and civil libertarian groups in Davao City , namely, Sr. Luz Mallo, ma, and Sr. Irene Kaharian of the Missionaries of the Assumption, Bishop Delfin Callao of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, Bishop Constante Claro of the UCCP – Southern Mindanao Jurisdiction Bro. Noelvic H.. Deloria, sc, Bro. Jose Godofredo G. Sapigao, sc and other church workers.

June 6, 2008.

Rey Guimboloy
Chairperson, NABOKASA
(Ata-Matigsalug lumad organization)

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