Mon. Jun 21st, 2021

UCCP SEMJA Bishop Hamuel Tequis, UCCP MLJA Bishop Emergencio Padillo, NCCP General Secretary Bishop Norman Marigza, UCCP General Secretary Bishop Melzar Labuntog, Salugpongan leaders Datu Tungig Mansimuy-at and Datu Guinom Andil, (From left to right), denied charges during a press conference at the UCCP Haran Center last year

Part Two: 27th Infantry Battalion confronts un-repentant bishops with hard evidence 

Erstwhile unrepentant, but are they still in-denial of facts and evidences presented by government?

When the Region-11 Peace and Order Council moved to shut down the Haran Center in Davao last January 2020, the Council of Bishops of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) demanded a public apology from the council for “besmirching the integrity” of the Christian denomination, and called for the urgent withdrawal of its “arbitrary resolution”.

The church’s leadership council, said it is “deeply offended” and “gravely concerned” by the forced entry of members of paramilitary group Alamara into the UCCP-Haran compound, which serves as a sanctuary for indigenous people who are fleeing militarization from their communities.

The bishops stated that they found council’s resolution, “undoubtedly offensive against the Church and against those that advocate peace, justice and human rights – a clear violation of the principle of separation of church and state.”

The Council said: “UCCP-Haran is not a mere evacuation center.

“HARAN stands for ‘Home and Altar for Renewal, Action and Nurture,’ a mission house inspired by the UCCP action in 1990 to declare our churches and church facilities as sanctuaries and zones of peace.”

In defiance, the bishops said “the regional council has no right whatsoever to demand the closure of a church’s mission, much more to blame a church for faithfully doing its Christian mission of defending the poor and the oppressed,” it added.

For years, the UCCP-Haran compound has housed evacuees from indigenous peoples of neighboring provinces leaving their communities due to what they claim are harassment and attacks from the military and paramilitary forces.

I will of course through this narrative show that this is a brazen lie and nothing buy a propaganda.

Tensions arose at the sanctuary at around 9:00 am on Saturday when members of Alamara, armed with bolos and wire cutters, tore down the compound’s fences and occupied the area. The evacuees said that policemen were already in the vicinity during the incident.

“The forced intrusion of the Alamara group into the compound of UCCP-Haran could not have happened without the prodding of those who initiated the resolution. It was unlawful and yet no one among the illegal intruders has been apprehended by the police up until this moment. We deplore such inaction and fumbling on the part of the police,” the UCCP said.

The UCCP Council of Bishops also deplored the “black propaganda” being spread against UCCP-Haran that are also aired by PTV News Mindanao, a media outlet in the region.

The church “unfalteringly” denied all allegations that IP evacuees are being used to get donations from foreign groups and they are being detained.

The UCCP leadership called on the Davao City Council, through its committees on human rights and indigenous peoples, to conduct an investigation into the intrusion into UCCP-Haran and the resulting damage to property there.

It also demanded that the Philippine National Police be held into account for condoning the intrusion and for its inaction, that all Alamara leaders who were involved in the attacks be apprehended for their unlawful forced entry in UCCP-Haran and for the damage to church properties, and that the Alamara be disbanded.

It took less than a year for the UCCP bishops’ allegations to crumble on the face of hard evidence and exposition of the “modus” practiced at the Haran site.

By November 2020, the Davao City Government announced the capture of two young members of communist terrorists in Sitio Quibolog in Barangay Mapula, Paquibato District saying that “unmasked and exposed the true face” of the Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation, Inc. (Misfi) and the Haran Center of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines in Davao City.

Based on the report from the 27th Infantry Battalion of the 10th Infantry Division, Philippine Army, a former Misfi scholar and a Haran teacher working on Father Selga Street in Barangay 8-A were arrested on November 14 during an earlier encounter between government soldiers and the New People’s Army (NPA).

Government authorities identified the arrested as Nasria Bansil and Geliejorain Ngojo, both Misfi scholars, and served as part-time teachers for IP children and elderly people camping at the Haran compound.

The arrested NPA members said aside from them who were separated from the group, some of their comrades were also injured after the encounter.

As scholars, the government said the two were made to sign a Return Service contract, binding them to serve and volunteer with organizations allied with the scholarship donor.

They said before finishing college in 2019, both Bansil and Ngojo volunteered twice in Haran, teaching what they called “Litnum” or basic literacy and numeracy education.

The local government said the two were recruited to become full-time cadres of the terrorist group earlier this year.

“Clearly, Misfi and Haran played important and active roles in the recruitment of Bansil and Ngojo into the underground terrorist movement,” the City said, adding these organizations “primed and prepared them into joining a terrorist group that has perpetuated the condition of poverty and underdevelopment across upland communities of indigenous peoples.”

The City reiterated “the warning of the security sector about the existence and operations of groups that serve as recruitment arms and fronts of the NPAs.”

“These groups operate on the pretense of education, religion, human rights, environment, women empowerment, children’s rights — basically just like Misfi and Haran,” the City said.

The local government likened the Misfi schools to the recently closed Salugpungan Ta Tanu Igkanugon Community Learning Center (STTICLC) that has been reportedly teaching ideologies of the NPA, which had been “alarmingly persistent” over the years.

“Haran, on the one hand, has been sheltering IPs from Talaingod in Davao del Norte — apparently to bolster the Left’s campaign against military operations in hinterland areas where the terrorists NPAs are operating,” it said.

The City also said they had been using children and civilians “to stop military pressure of the NPAs” as a tactic straight from the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, the Communist Party of the Philippines, and its allies.

The City Government said they are currently working to establish order and sustainable development in Paquibato District through Peace 911, a city program that provides livelihood and economic opportunities, education, roads, bridges, community health centers, and other infrastructure projects.

“We call on all peace-loving Dabawenyos to reject individuals and organizations that hamper the development of our city,” the city government said, adding to “stand against individuals and organizations that, in the guise of selfless and pro-people acts, plant seeds of terrorism in our youth.”

Opposition senatorial candidate Pilo Hilbay’s tweet on April 14, 2019 – “Today is mostly land travel across Mindanao. First stop natin ang Davao City, where we met with the Save Our Schools Network and Lumad Leaders in UCCP Haran.”

Unmasking Haran

Haran is a holding place for members of indigenous people (Lumads). It is based in Davao City and being supervised by the United Church of Christ in the Philippines in cooperation with other religious groups and non-government organizations.

Why the IPs, and seemingly only the IPs, are herded in Haran has been intriguing. They are supposed to be sheltered there to be extended assistance but their presence in rallies and demonstrations invites curiosity. Any which way you look at it, the IPs are being exploited to the hilt.

I first heard of Haran when it opened its doors to Ips from then Compostela Valley province, Bukidnon, Agusan and Surigao provinces, Cotabato and from Talaingod, Davao del Norte for what the public thought was just part a social outreach program of the church.

With all its intelligence apparatus, the Philippine National Police never seemed to mind the existence of Haran and why for a number of years, indigenous peoples from far flung areas are methodically housed in this “shelter”.

In not a few instances have we seen these innocent people donning their native attire and participating in rallies that denounce human rights violations, “hamleting”, agrarian and environmental issues.

There colorful attire and their faces make for good propaganda materials but sadly in interviews done with some of them it is apparent that they are not aware of what are they shouting for and why they are there in the first place.

Why they are herded in Haran in Davao City and why they are used in rallies instead of staging their gripes in their respective provinces is quite perplexing on the surface. The reasons however are simple and yet abominable.

UCCP and other religious groups either wittingly or unwittingly into the whole drama as some of their leaders could be members of NGOs or withy the legal fronts of the CPP-NPA-NDF.

Think of why President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly stated that he is declining assistance from European donor foundations to local beneficiary foundations. He knew that donations through local NGOs are not spent for projects that the beneficiary foundations described in their feasibility studies but to the wrong pockets or shared with leftist fronts.

Here are the hard and simple facts.

What interest donor foundations in EU are those that pertain to human rights, hunger, illiteracy and about environment. The reasons why Davao City is the favorite staging ground of NGOs for rallies and demonstrations are basically on account of its free press and the fact that the city is the economic and communication center in Mindanao.

Demos and rallies are extensively covered by print and broadcast media to include those who use internet platforms. Photos of screaming demonstrators and placards and video clips of incendiary speeches that are printed in the local newspapers and shown on TV are veritable materials that are included in the project studies sent by the NGOs for funding assistance.

It is noteworthy moreover that recently the police authorities and the local government units finally decided to undertake a probe into the operations of Haran.

With the number of NPA rebels returning to the folds of the law, the chieftains of the IP communities finally mustered enough courage to seek government intervention to retrieve the members of their tribes who are still held practically incommunicado in that “safe house”.

The investigation, I understand, involves not only its closure but also to unmask those who are behind the hamlet who had been hiding in the mantle of religion and piety.

The CPP-NPA-NDF is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.

Members of the 27th Infantry Action Battalion “take a five” after a mission accomplished.

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