53 IPs back in ancestral land after years of exploitation
By Che Palicte / Philippine News Agency
DAVAO CITY – A total of 53 members of the Ata Manobo tribe, including minors, have returned to their ancestral land in Talaingod, Davao del Norte after several years of exploitation living in the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) Haran compound here.
In a statement Friday, the Police Regional Office in Region 11 (PRO-11) said the indigenous peoples (IP), all residents of Sitio Dulian, were brought home by the Talaingod municipality’s bus, van, and dump truck on Wednesday.
Members of PRO-11’s Revitalized-Pulis Sa Barangay (R-PSB) Nasilaban and the Talaingod Municipal Police Station escorted the returning IPs, led by Lorena Mandacawan, and provided food packs.
Mandacawan stayed at the UCCP-Haran for more than three years.
The IPs were reportedly left at UCCP-Haran by their tribal leader, Datu Doloman, making life more difficult for them.
Before proceeding home, the IPs will stay at the Municipal Tribal Hall in Barangay Sto. Niño.
Brig. Gen. Filmore Escobal, Director of PRO-11, is optimistic the return will finally end the deception and exploitation of IPs who are being used as leverage to get funds from local and foreign donors.
He added that the efforts of the government through different agencies and PRO 11’s RPSB have been a big factor in encouraging people, especially the IP communities, to believe that the government will protect them.
“PASAKA-SMR (Pasaka Confederation of Lumad Organizations in Southern Mindanao) is spreading propaganda that the voluntary departure of IPs from Haran was to continue their struggle for their welfare. The truth is, the hardship experienced by IPs inside Haran is the real reason. They left Haran because they believed that the government really cared about their welfare,” Escobal added.
PASAKA-SMR recruited the IPs and illegally detained them. Some were rescued while others were allowed to leave.
Cases have been filed against Haran and PASAKA-SMR officials for forcing the IPs to engage in armed activities, forced labor, involuntary servitude, and other exploitative purposes. (PNA)