North Cotabato 2nd district Rep. Nancy Catamco calls herself a “Diwata” — a goddess — of Mindanao’s lumad peoples. On Facebook, her press releases rhapsodise about how people love her, weep to see her.
To the threatened indigenous people of Davao del Norte and surrounding provinces, however, Catamco is a traitor. The chair of the House of Representatives Committee on Indigenous Peoples, Catamco, has launched a unique campaign to “rescue” internal refugees — by delivering them to their tormentors.
Catamco, cops, and the Alamara paramilitary group stormed on July 23 the Haran Mission House in Davao City of United Church of Christ of the Philippines (UCCP).
The sprawling compound has served for 21 years as sanctuary for lumad fleeing military abuses in Talaingod and Kapalong towns, Davao del Norte.
Fifteen refugees were hurt when truncheon-wielding cops forced down the gate of the UCCP Haran compound and destroyed the temporary shelters of IP folk. Lumad resistance and the intervention of Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte prevented greater violence.
WATCH VIDEO: Catamco instigates police attack on lumad refugees (with permission by kilab Multimedia Productions)
Catamco was in the thick of the disturbance, the third incident since she started visiting lumad refugees, on invitation of the Save Our Schools network.
The UCCP bishops condemned “the illegal and violent conduct,” including the “brutal” beating of pastors by cops with truncheons and steel shields.
“We are outraged at this show of excessive force more so because the PNP did not have any warrant to enter and search the Church facility, which is a private property,” the UCCP said at a pressconference.
Church leaders accused Catamco of failing to heed the demands of the Ata-Manobo for an end to military presence near their schools and homes.
She even came with the Alamara, a para-military group whose existence she earlier dismissed.
No less than the refugee parents of the Alamara forces confirmed their identities and affiliation. Among the Alamara members was Perut Malibato of Sitio Patel, Barangay Gupitan, Kapalong, Davao del Norte.
It was a tearful reunion between Perut and his parents, Celia and Anayak, and younger brother, Alvin.
Refugee leaders allowed Perut to talk with his family. He tried to convince them to return. They refused, reiterating the condition that earlier angered Catamco – they would return only if systems of reforms guarantee a halt to military abuses.
On her first visit, lumad – thinking Catamco was an ally of militant lawmakers who had publicized their plight – gave her a warm welcome.
The atmosphere turned stormy on the second day of dialogue, when she started insulting lumad leaders, demanding their immediate return to Talaingod and Kapalong.
WATCH VIDEO: YOU WANT TO DIE HERE?
Accusing Catamco and cops of bad faith, UCCP said: “Just a few hours prior to the violent incident, the Church facilitated a dialogue with DSWD and NCIP, and came up with resolutions that they would just attend to the needs of the women and children. But even while the resolution was being firmed out, the PNP terrorized the evacuees with their presence in full riot gear, the presence of paramilitary group ALAMARA, demolition team, fire trucks and military trucks, and then proceeded to destroy the gate and forcibly entered the church premises.”
The lumad and their supporters were ready for the storm because Catamco had earlier vowed she would make sure they returned to their mountain villages.
Her first encounter with the lumad at Haran was friendly. After a brief meeting in the company of Makabayan lawmakers, Catamco had promised to come back with officials of the Department of Social Word and Development, and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples and the Commission on Human Rights.
But she also arrived with Army generals, the very sector that lumad blame for their plight.
It was in the aftermath of that round when Catamco hurled her first vow to force the lumad back home — where members of their tribe had been murdered, arrested, ambushed and where soldiers have taken over the only schools that have served the needs of lumad children.
Catamco pretends these charges are being exaggerated. Well, WATCH THIS.
The incident happened last year, prompting an evacuation of lumad. Catamco berated the lumad for repeated evacuation. But the reason for that is, because the military has continued to harass schools and communities despite an agreement forged during a past dialogue.
Catamco, the diwata, loves to hear her voice and only her voice. When she doesn’t get her way immediately, she stages a tantrum. She threatens.
On Thursday, she acted on that threat. Tough luck for her, their travails have taught lumad the art of resistance. She was sent on her way, her goddess’ train limp between her legs.