THE left-leaning Makabayan Bloc in the House of Representatives continued to lash at North Cotabato Rep. Nancy Catamco on Saturday, accusing her of “egregious disrespect for the sensitivities of Mindanao’s indigenous people” during a supposed dialogue in Davao City.
Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares denounced Catamco’s “unilateral decision” to inviting to the dialogue military officials whom he said were the ones harassing and intimidating tribesmen and forced them to seek sanctuary in places like the Haran Compound in Davao City.
“Instead of facilitating the dialogue and evincing empathy towards the lumads (tribesmen), Rep. Catamco made derogatory and humiliating statements against the evacuees, their tribal leaders and support groups,” Makabayan said in a statement.
“She gruffly stopped Rep. Carlos I. Zarate when he tried to raise a point, telling him ‘I’m not talking to you.’ That prompted him to walk out of the dialogue, followed by the lumads and their supporters,” the group added.
The group said Catamco, along with Reps. Luz Ilagan of Gabriela, Carlos Zarate of Bayan Muna and Terry Ridon of Kabataan party-list were supposed to be the only ones invited by the non-government Save our Schools Network to join an investigative mission on the harassment and other human rights violations purportedly perpetrated by the military.
But in a text message to The Standard, Catamco denied the accusations of the Makabayan Bloc.
“It’s not true. They are liars. They detain the Ips in Haran Compound. The dialogue was properly documented. We have video footage for the whole event,” Catamco said.
“The Haran Compound is not a sanctuary is not a sanctuary for the Ips, as they are saying. This is like a concentration camp. They are being treated inhumanely. This is not healthy and even more inhumane,” Catamco said.
“Imagine, they were crammed in make-shift tents with no proper beddings, food or toilets. And worse, they were not allowed to go home and the gate was padlocked. You visit them and see for yourself;” Catamco said.
The Makabayan Bloc said last July 13, the mission went to Cateel, Davao Oriental and visited a school established by the lumads.
The following day the four legislators met with the evacuees and their leaders at the United Church of Christ Philippines’ Haran Compound in Davao City, the group said.
The Makabayan Bloc said the evacuees presented several concerns to them, including the military and paramilitary harassments and vilification campaign against the lumads, volunteer teachers and their support groups
“At that meeting Rep. Catamco suggested that they meet again the following morning and she would bring along officials of the National Commission of Indigenous Peoples. The lumad leaders welcomed her suggestion.
“...Rep. Catamco further humiliated the evacuees when she uttered, “Panguli na mo kay baho na kayo mo diri. (You should go back to your homes because you are already stinky here).”
She tried to entice the evacuees to go home by telling them packed lunch and buses had been prepared for them.
“Worse, Rep. Catamco went on questioning the datus if they were really tribal leaders, because according to her myopic view, “leaders should not leave their communities.” And she maliciously asked several participants in the dialogue if they were members of the NPA or of NGOs,” the Makabayan Bloc charged.