DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Clearly angry over the July 25 clash between lumad (indigenous people) refugees staying at a church-run shelter in Davao City and authorities who were attempting to return them home, Mayor Rodrigo Duterte minced no words in saying the fiasco was all North Cotabato 2nd District Rep. Nancy Catamco’s fault.
“It was an order coming from an incompetent authority,” Ang Balitang Davao quoted him as saying on Saturday. “You’re just a congresswoman, not a mayor! You should go to the mayor or the barangay captain.”
Catamco is the head of the House of Representatives’s committee on indigenous peoples. She has since been condemned for what has been described as a heavy-handed approach in attempting to return the refugees staying at the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP)’s compound to their villages.
At least a dozen lumad, their supporters, and two police officers were hurt in the clash which was eventually abated when Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte stepped in.
According to Catamco, she wanted to return the lumad back to their communities since the compound lacked proper facilities and sanitation. She also alleged they were being illegally detained at the site.
However, an incensed Digong said Catamco—who has lumad blood flowing in her veins through her grandparents—ironically doesn’t have a clue about the problems besetting the indigenous peoples.
“It’s really ideology that’s working out there,” he explained. “The Alamara is the armed component of the government that was let loose in the mountains and they strike fear in the hearts of the lumads who are sympathetic to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).”
The refugees—lumads from the hinterlands of Davao del Norte and Bukidnon—earlier said they will go back to their villages only if the military and the Alamara (a pro-government militia) stop occupying and harassing their communities.
Elaborating on Catamco’s lack of knowledge, Duterte said the congresswoman should have relayed her concern to the proper executive agency such as the Department of Justice (DOJ) or the Commission on Human Rights (CHR).
“She’s a legislator. She’s not supposed to take the law into her own hands just because she’s the representative of the lumad,” he pointed out.