Rights group backs UCCP vs closure attempt on its Davao compound

Human rights group Karapatan condemned the resolution of the Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) of Region XI, recommending the closure of the United Church of Christ of the Philippines (UCCP) sanctuary for indigenous people in Davao City, calling it “an act of blatant harassment against the displaced Lumad and those who provide sanctuary and support for distressed communities.”

“The church compound of the UCCP Haran in Davao City has been a shelter for indigenous communities facing threats and other violations from State forces. Through the said compound, the UCCP has been seen as an exemplary and compassionate institution that ministers to the plight of the poor. The only ones who are threatened by the existence of such a facility are those who use faith to serve their own repressive and megalomanic designs,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said.

The RPOC-Region XI also said it will pursue arrests and filing of charges on those supporting the Lumad. Its recommendations were sent to the Regional Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (RTF-ELCAC) for “appropriate legal action.”

The church compound currently provides sanctuary to at least 500 Lumad residents from militarised communities in Davao del Norte, Compostela Valley and North Cotabato.  Through the years, there have been attempts by government officials and State forces to forcibly enter the facility, burn down its structures and abduct those who sought shelter in the compound.

“Members of indigenous communities in the compound have already been subjected to numerous attacks. Their homes and communities have been bombed and pillaged by soldiers and paramilitary groups. Their schools were also forcibly closed. Their leaders have hunted and some were killed. These attempts to continuously harm them and put their lives at risk needs our strong condemnation,” Palabay said.

“Martial law in Mindanao has been lifted only on paper but with the continuing implementation of Executive Order No. 70 which outlines militarist actions similar to this closure attempt on the UCCP Haran, Mindanao and the entire country continues to suffer under a de facto martial law crisis. We call on church groups and institutions, humanitarian and rights organizations, and communities to continue to defend people’s rights amid such attacks,” the Karapatan official concluded.

 

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