Press Release
February 24, 2016


Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago lamented that the alleged attack on a refugee site in Davao City early Wednesday showed that government has failed to protect indigenous peoples driven out of their homes by violence in Mindanao.

"I condemn in the strongest terms the alleged arson of the Lumad evacuation center in Davao City, and I urge authorities to investigate the incident promptly," the senator said.

Reports say two unidentified men were seen setting fire to dormitories used by Lumad evacuees at the United Church of Christ in the Philippines Haran compound at around 2 a.m. The fire razed the building and hurt five people.

"The indigenous peoples at the UCCP Haran compound were driven out of their homes by violence. The Lumads are now again rendered homeless. They deserved state protection, but were instead harassed by state agents, who once attempted to forcibly evict them," Santiago said.

She was referring to an incident in June 2015, when the Davao police and other armed personnel reportedly attempted to forcibly evict the Lumad evacuees from the church compound and back to their homes.

Santiago has earlier filed a resolution calling for a Senate inquiry on the June 2015 incident. She has also sought probes on the alleged militarization of indigenous communities and the reported closure of schools for Lumad children.

"I urge the next Congress to fast-track the passage of the Rights of Internally Displaced Persons Act and to include in the bill specific provisions on the rights of indigenous peoples," Santiago said.

"We have failed the Lumads. Let us not renege further on our obligation," she added.

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