Karapatan National Press release –
6 May 2021
Human rights alliance Karapatan slammed the trumped-up charges and arrest warrants against six church leaders, administrators, and social workers of the United Church of Christ of the Philippines (UCCP) Haran center in Davao City who have provided sanctuary to bakwit Lumad communities forcibly displaced from their ancestral domains due to militarization.
“It is no secret that the UCCP Haran center has long been a target of threats from State armed forces because of its humanitarian work — and now, through the vicious National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, they are hellbent in killing the efforts of groups and individuals who are providing relief and sanctuary to people suffering from the cruelty of State violence,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay stated.
UCCP Southeast Mindanao Jurisdiction Area Bishop Hamuel Tequis, Rev. Daniel Palicte, Ephraim Malazarte, social workers Lindy Trenilla, Grace Avila, and Pasaka Confederation of Lumad Organization Secretary General Christony Jun “Jong” Monzon were charged with violation of the Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act.
Their legal counsels decried that there was no preliminary investigation conducted and that the church leaders and social workers have not received copies of the subpoena, affidavits of the complainants, and other documents regarding the case. Bishop Tequis, Rev. Palicte, Malazarte, Trenilla and Avila were already able to post bail on the said case on April 30, 2021. They filed a motion to hold in abeyance the issuance and service of arrest warrants and to order the conduct of a preliminary investigation on April 26, 2021.
Palabay averred that these charges “violated their rights to due process with many glaring irregularities. The trumped-up charges against UCCP leaders in Davao have long been prepared for by the devilish minions of the NTF-ELCAC to discredit the humanitarian work of the UCCP and organizations helping the Lumad bakwit who fled their communities due to militarization, the closure of their schools, the killing of their leaders.”
The Karapatan official further strongly expressed support for the UCCP who have been relentless in helping the Lumad, despite difficulties of maintaining the sanctuary and endless red-tagging and harassment against church leaders, who committed that their services and advocacy of aiding the people, especially displaced indigenous communities, is “part of the church’s mission.”
Numerous attacks have hit the Haran sanctuary, such as the Anti-Money Laundering Council’s freeze order on the center’s back accounts through the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act. In 2020, Bishop Tequis was among those red-tagged in posters throughout Davao City as “NPA recruiters” and “child rights violators.” Early this year, the Regional Peace and Order Council 11 ordered the closure of the center.
“The UCCP Haran center is a sanctuary for the Lumad. However, like wolves going after their prey, armed State forces, the NTF-ELCAC, and even officials of local government units do not stop at furthering their harassment and brazen violations of the rights of the Lumad even when they are already in sanctuary. This is the handiwork of a regime focused on terrorizing those who are defending the rights of the downtrodden,” Palabay said. “Blood is in their hands, and blood remains on their hands as they continue to threaten the closure of Haran, sow fear and terror by judicial harassment, while they continue to threaten and coerce Lumad communities. We stand with Bishop Tequis and the rest of the UCCP and the Lumad. Hands off Bishop Tequis! Hands off human rights defenders!” she ended.