The rescue that never was

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When leaders of the Ata-Manobo from Davao del Norte swooped  the compound of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) Haran along Fr Selga Street in Davao City, upon the order of Governor Edwin Jubahib, they thought their relatives will be coming with them and will they come home.

The rescue was unplanned, not carefully thought nor coordinated among rescuers,  it was a bungled operation.

Rescuers cut the cyclone wires at the expense of other UCCP members who financed the fencing of the compound.

The attempt to harmonize the Ata-Manobo and reunite them with their families back home turned a circus.

Chaos ensued and there was clash amongst leaders of the Indigenous Communities, instead of peace there was hatred.

Good thing, Davao City Acting Mayor Sebastian Duterte arrived and the tension was defused, if not— it could have been another story.

During the last five years, the Ata-Manobo inside  UCCP Haran  has become a community inside a community, an alternative school which is never recognized by the  Department of Education and as their temporary shelter and their condition has become a tool for fund-raising activities.

Leaders of haran and their allied groups say, the Ata-Manobo  find peace inside, but understanding their culture, their is unpeace because it is not their natural home.

Jabahib even used a public address system to call on the IPs to go home with him via a public address, counting as if he was calling boy scouts for a formation, he never realized the issue involve is deeply rooted—from poverty to government neglect to ideology.

For government, Haran has never offered peace, it has never been a sanctuary not a center for people finding shelter, they look at it as a garrison where movements are controlled and talks synchronized.

For Political leaders of Davao del Norte, the police and the military, Haran is a sanctuary for the supporters of the communist movement, claiming among others, the presence of IPs from Haran in various anti-government activities not just in Mindanao but also in Metro Manila.

Charges and counter-charges have been filed—yet again the Ata-Manobo are the living witness to all these prop war.

While the  tug-of-war among government agencies and the Haran leadership along with the militant groups continue-there is unrest among people.

The passage of the Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) resolution in mid-January, for the closure of the UCCP compound has become the weapon of the state against an institution, who claims to be offering just a sanctuary of peace and nothing more.

While leaders of the warring groups use the hapless IPs in their propaganda war, the fact remains— the IPs are displaced- the fact remains they are not free even in what UCCP considers a sanctuary.

IP leaders inside Haran and the militant groups want total military pullout in their communities, a wish that can never happen.

They want government to support  the communities towards economic empowerment  and protect their ancestral claim, but they must realize that among them their are land brokers.

Instead of hurling propaganda against each other, why cannot these warring forces provide a venue for IP leaders only, to sit down and talk among them what is good for them in their communities.

Let the real IP leaders who come from their real communities talk to each other to resolve the challenges besetting their communities.

Let the IP leaders define their problems and craft their own solutions.

While it is good to hear that efforts are undertaken for the welfare of the Ata-Manobo.

It would be best to see the real community leaders talk without the intervention or pressure from the pseudo leaders who penetrated their organization.

Long before the laws of the land was published, the IPs were governed by their  own laws based on their culture.

Meeting of the minds  among stakeholders of the IP communities is necessary and not meeting among leaders who only want public posturing and propaganda.

Let the IP leaders identify their mediator—a person of their choice, a person they trust.

Let no one  impose structures for them.

Let us not forget, the IPs  once lived in a happy life in the  community they call paradise.

Let them enjoy peace in their own land, let them define happiness, afterall, they fight for self-determination.

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