ROUGH CUTS| Have peace will progress

IT’S BEEN months since the more than 700 indigenous peoples from Talaingod in Davao del Norte evacuated from their community and sought shelter at the Haran compound of the Brokenshire Health Ministry Complex along Fr. Selga Street in Davao City.

And it appears that it is only now that government authorities realize that they need to provide toilets and other sanitation facilities to the evacuees to prevent the occurrence of diseases in the very congested evacuation site.

In fact, health authorities in the region are even thinking of bringing to the Haran center a mobile ultrasound equipment to check on cases of some of the more infirmed evacuees.

And to quote the Department of Health (DOH) Region XI director Dr. Abdullah Dumama himself in an interview with media, “the DOH Secretary and the President reached out to him during the visit and asked what other support is needed at the site.” Oh, really? Wow! That is quite encouraging.

But why is government, specifically the DOH and the City Health Office are putting up toilets? Are they planning to let the Lumad evacuees stay at Haran center for the longest time? No, we are not against the project. We are for it if it would obviate the possibility that the unsanitary condition in the site will bring in a host of diseases to the evacuees.

To us though, toilets and other health interventions are palliatives. These are not the needed solutions to the problem that has triggered the indigenous people to leave their place in the hinterlands.

They are claiming that they are being harassed by the military and the armed groups allegedly in the service of the government soldiers. They are demanding that the government pull out the soldiers operating in the Talaingod uplands so they can go back to their respective communities without fear of being harassed or even killed by government soldiers.

Meanwhile, the military is claiming that the evacuees are actually being used by the rebel New People’s Army (NPA) to discredit the government soldiers, and their evacuation to the city as  propaganda for their cause.

But even as the Lumads are claiming that they are no supporters of the rebels, they are only demanding for the pull-out of the military. They and their supporters are not pushing unequivocally that the rebels leave their place so there will be no more clashes in the area and they will be totally free of harassment and intimidation either from the government soldiers or the rebels.

Now, if government really wants a lasting solution to the Lumad evacuation which is also what they are setting as condition for them to leave Haran and go back to their communities, why not give it to them? Why not pull out the soldiers and station them outside of Talaingod? Why not the Lumad evacuees and their leaders both in the shadows and above grounds ask the rebels to also move out of Talaingod?

We believe that if these are done and complied with utmost sincerity by both parties, there will be no doubt that peace will prevail in that area. The lumads will be left to themselves. Government then can start reaching them out with non-military interventions.

With both the military and the NPA out of Talaingod that would be the most appropriate time for social services like health, livelihood and education to come to the Lumad communities .

Of course, knowing the root of the insurgency conflict and the contempt both the military and the rebels have for each other, all the things we are intimating to be undertaken to prod the evacuees to return home, are easier said than done. That is the sad reality.

But is it doable? We think it is. What is needed is for the leadership of government and the rebels to shed away their pride and hatred and meet at the negotiating table, lay down their cards and discuss openly how the conflict can be brought to a fruitful closure.

For as long as no one of the leaderships of government and the rebels will come down from their pedestal and talk peace, there will never be any chance of peace to come.

The Lumad exodus from Talaingod and their more than quarter of a year’s stay at Haran is only a microcosm of the bigger problem besetting the country for more than four decades already, the communist insurgency.

So, if the government has failed to find solution to the much smaller problem of the Talaingod Lumads’ evacuation how can it solve the insurgency on a nationwide scale when none from the parties is willing to solve it anyway?

Maybe this should be made the top priority of the next administration because if peace reigns in the country progress follows in all aspects, be it in the urban centers or in the rural areas, or even in the remotest uplands such as Talaingod.

Posted in Opinion