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Protesters demand expulsion of North Cotabato lawmaker

MANILA – Various groups have protested Wednesday in front of the House of Representatives and demanded the expulsion of North Cotabato lawmaker Nancy Catamco from the National Cultural Communities committee which she heads.

Among those that joined the protest were Salinlahi, Save Our Schools network (SOS) and Sulong Katribu. The group lambasted Catamco and accused her of being “anti-indigenous peoples” following a police raid at the compound of the United Church of Christ of the Philippines in Davao City recently where tribesmen had been staying after fleeing military operations in the province.

Kharlo Manano, Secretary-General of Salinlahi and lead convener of the SOS network, said the evacuees in Davao City were further made to suffer in the recent attempts of the police, military and Alamara militias upon the alleged order of Catamco, forcing them to return home.

“They used brute force in their so-called rescue without even addressing the intensifying militarization in their communities, the very reason why the lumads, including more than 500 children, sought refuge in Davao City,” Manano said in a statement sent to the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

He said the incident proved how the Aquino government continues to turn a blind eye on the rights and welfare of indigenous peoples. He said even the United Nation Special Rapporteur on Internally Displaced Persons Chaloka Beyani raised this concern over the plight of the 700 lumad refugees because of the presence of military and paramilitary groups in their communities.

Beyani, in his statement, also mentioned his concern over the alleged forced recruitment of lumad tribesmen into the para-military group as well as the reported cases of schools being closed or occupied by government troops and miltias and hampering the access to education of indigenous children.

Catamco has previously denied all allegations against her. (Mindanao Examiner)

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