Court issues arrest warrant vs. 6 UCCP-Haran execs

Updated: May 3

By Che Palicte / Philippine News Agency

DAVAO CITY — An arrest warrant has been issued by the Davao City Regional Trial Court (RTC) against six administrators of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) Haran Center for child abuse.


The April 21 arrest warrant was issued against UCCP Bishop Hamuel Tequis, Rev. Daniel Palicte, Ephraim Malazarte, Jong Monzon, secretary-general of Pasaka Confederation of Lumad Organizations in Southern Mindanao (Pasaka-SMR), Lindy Trenilla, and Grace Avila -- all have been charged with two counts of violation of RA 7610 or Child Abuse Law.


The criminal cases stemmed from the complaint filed by the four members of the Indigenous peoples (IP) group from Davao del Norte in September last year against the leaders of the New People’s Army (NPA), including Haran's management.


The complainants, Ata-Manobo tribe members who were minors "during the time of the commission of the crimes," accused Haran officials of "harboring communist terrorist group (CTG)" and for forcing them against their will "for the purpose of engaging them in armed activities, forced labor, involuntary servitude, using them in armed conflict, and for other exploitative purposes."


Since 2015, the Haran Center inside the UCCP compound on Fr. Selga St. here has been serving as a temporary shelter for displaced IPs from various Davao Region provinces and other parts of Mindanao.


Authorities, however, have accused the center of harboring communist NPA rebels and of allegedly serving as a training and recruitment ground for the communist rebel movement.


Triumph for IPs


Meanwhile, Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Undersecretary Lorraine Marie Badoy told Philippine News Agency (PNA) in an interview Wednesday that court decision was a triumph for the IPs and the Filipinos.


“The NTF ELCAC is rejoicing because this is a very clear and unequivocal victory for the Filipino people more so the IPs that were being marketed by the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF). We are very happy that this has happened and the long arm of the law is finally catching up for the communist terrorist group (CTG) enablers,” said Badoy, who is also spokesperson of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).


Badoy said the heinous crimes committed by Haran to the IPs, such as human trafficking, kidnapping, training child warriors, slavery, child abuse, must end.


“The worst human condition of the children who eventually died there was not even reported by the administrators to the city government. Let’s get justice for these IPs. This is the first step in a long journey for us to get justice and for us to heal our country,” she said.


Welcome development


Police Regional Office in Region 11 (PRO-11) director, Brig. Gen. Filmore Escobal, said the arrest warrant was a welcome development for the Philippine National Police (PNP).


“They have been exploiting the IPs, and in fact, it is a fake evacuation center. The warrant has been issued and we will implement it but they can also submit themselves and post bail and face the charges pressed on to them,” Escobal said.


“The IPs wanted to go out from that facility and go back to their communities. In fact, the province of Davao del Norte and the local government units have put up IP housing units for them,” he added.


He said the Regional Peace and Order Council of Davao Region (RPOC-11) has also ordered the closure of Haran.


In January 2020, RPOC-11 approved a resolution seeking the immediate closure of UCCP Haran Center for violating the Indigenous People’s Rights Act, as well as of committing child abuse and serious illegal detention offenses while engaging in human trafficking.


“Our goal is for its total closure and to stop centers like this from exploiting the IPs,” Escobal said.


Davao City Mayor Sara Z. Duterte said she is hoping that the children who died in Haran may "get the justice they deserve." (PNA)

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