LETTERS FROM DAVAO
By Jun Ledesma
How did the Davao IP kids get to Cebu?
THE so-called Human Rights watchdogs are smarting over the rescue of the minor children of the indigenous tribes who were traced by welfare authorities in the San Carlos University Talamban campus. In Cebu. The 19 indigenous people (IP) children, all in their teens, are very impressionable. How they were able to travel to Cebu and herded in an unlikely territory for indigenous children is a whodunit quest.
This may look like something odd to Western countries that are ignorant of the ethnic culture of our indigenous tribes and therefore will be inveigled to send donations to pan-handling non-government organizations who parade as champions of rights of the down-trodden. It is simply incomprehensible and unimaginable for a minor, a child of an Ata-Manobo family from the remote mountain town of Talaingod, Davao del Norte, to travel by land and sea and find their way in the university campus in Cebu.
Really? Will the HRW of Cebu and its phalanx of legal advisers file charges against the government authorities who rescued them from what appears to be an indoctrination camp? If I know Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade, Jr. he’d say, “bring it on”.
The Cebu camp is no different from other religious-run quarters in Davao City called HARAN. Because it is operated by the United Church of Christ in the Philippines and allied churches the government maintained a hands-off policy. Haran, is likened to biblical accounts as a place serving as a temporary shelter. The modern-day Haran, however, is fraught with mystery and suspicion.
UCCP and a human rights front called Pasaka had herded hundreds of indigenous peoples in the center. They came from Davao del Norte, Agusan, Cotabato and Bukidnon. Their statement released to foreign media alleged that the indigenous people fled their ancestral domain because of “militarization”, harassment and violence.
But why herd them in Davao City? If they have gripes, why don’t they ait these in their respective local governments? There is only one plausible answer. Davao City is not only the trading and commercial center in Mindanao, it is also the communications center. Here you have television, radio, and newspaper establishments. If your purpose is propaganda and other covert agenda, do it in Davao City and you get ample coverage aired domestically and internationally.
We have seen these innocent people participating in left-inspired rallies parading in the main streets of Davao City. They are carrying the usual anti-government propaganda - placards a d steamers in flaming red. They were mostly kids. You see the innocence in their faces as they look in awe and wonder at tall buildings. At times they smile in glee and laugh at each other showing their beetle-nut tinted teeth and ignorant of the fact that they are used as props. Their faces and the screaming placards later would later be seen in photos and videos that would land in media outlets worldwide, and, who knows some feasibility studies are later crafted and sent to donor foundations in Europe, the USA, and Canada for funding.
The UCCP Haran in Davao was later ordered closed when IP leaders from various provinces learned that their children and kin were herded in the center and sought their respective local government authorities to rescue them. In the probe that followed, the kids revealed that they had been wanting to go home to their parents but were “persuaded” to stay. Pasaka and the church leaders claimed they were teaching the children in what they call “bakwit” school inside the Haran. The Regional Peace and Order Council though did not buy their story.
We thought that Davao Haran was all there is to it until the Cebu Haran-like center was exposed.
We saw the IP kids from Cebu on Facebook when they finally boarded a plane to Davao. Their innocent faces show how eager and happy they are to be reunited with their families.
As I write this piece, I am still is askance as to how the children of the indigenous people in Talaingod, Davao del Norte found their way to Cebu. Maybe General Parlade can unravel the puzzle and the mystery. Did the kids hiked nearly 200 kilometers and swam the hostile water from Mindanao to Cebu to study at San Carlos University?
About the Columnist
Mr. Jun Ledesma is a community journalist who writes from Davao City and comments from the perspective of a Mindanaoan.