Zarate hits Catamco ‘rescue’

BAYAN Muna Rep. Isagani Carlos Zarate accused Cotabato Rep. Nancy Catamco of conspiring with the military to harass him for denouncing the militarization and subsequent killings of indigenous people in Mindanao.

In a privilege speech, Zarate demanded that Catamco explain her role in the military operation that resulted in the supposed rape of a 14-year-old girl and the flight of about 700 Manobo tribesmen who sought refuge at the UCCP Haran compound in Davao City.

Zarate delivered the privilege speech almost a month after he was charged with child abuse and illegal detention by the rape victim after she was forcibly “rescued” from the Haran compound by Catamco.

He said the reason the teenager, her mother and 700 others were forced to seek sanctuary at the UCCP Haran compound in Davao City was because of the rape that had taken place when the military soldiers stormed the tribe, locally called lumad.

Zarate said the military and paramilitary group Alamara filed charges of serious illegal detention and child abuse against him and six other militant leaders of various non-government organizations.

He said the teenager and her mother stood as main complainants against him and the six others, whom he did not name.

“This teenager, including her mother, who were supposedly rescued from UCCP Haran by the group of Rep. Nancy Catamco at the  height of the violent raid on their community on July 23. This mother and daughter are also the primary complainants against me and my colleagues,” Zarate said.

Zarate said the “trumped up charges” were based on the supposed detention of 700 evacuees at the UCCP Haran.

Zarate said he only had two occasions where he went to visit the lumad sanctuary at Haran and only spoke with the tribesfolk when he joined a fact-finding mission organized by the Save Our Schools network.

“I also wasn’t in Davao on the day the police and military raided the compound in the company of Catamco. I was here in Manila with my staff,” he said.

Catamco is chairman of the House committee on indigenous people. She held a hearing at the Haran compound where she told the lumads to go home because “you stink already.”

Zarate took Catamco to task and urged her to explain why after her purported rescue of the lumad teenager and her mother that no charges of rape were filed against the military soldiers.

“It was incumbent upon Rep. Catamco to help the lumad teenager seek justice because that was the reason why she sought refuge at UCCP Haran in the first place. After Catamco, accompanied by DSWD and military soldiers supposedly rescued the teenage girl and her mother, I now become the subject of harassment only because I openly condemn the massive violation of human rights of the lumads,” Zarate said.

Zarate said he was confident that the trumped charges be dismissed. “There is an ongoing war of attrition against the lumads; a state of impunity is wrecking havoc on the lives of the lumads of Mindanao,” he said.


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