Groups decry alleged arson: 5 hurt in lumad evacuation center fire

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A dormitory used as evacuation center for lumads or internally displaced persons (IDPs) was allegedly burned by unidentified men on Wednesday (February 24).

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) – A lumad evacuation camp in Davao City was torched early morning on Wednesday (February 23), leaving five people wounded, including four children.

The victims were rushed to the hospital for treatment.

At around 2 a.m. on Wednesday, unidentified men burned a dormitory used as evacuation center for internally displaced persons (IDPs) inside the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP)-Haran compound, the group Defend Talaingod Save Pantaron (DTSP) reported.

While investigation is still ongoing, the DTSP said the incident was “premeditated and intentional.”

AFP-backed group allegedly behind ‘attack’

Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon condemned the alleged arson and called on the local and national government, including Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, to immediately investigate the incident.

“What are our national and local officials doing to protect the Lumad? The Lumad evacuees, victims of internal displacement, have sought refuge in UCCP, yet these paramilitary groups again proved that they will stop at nothing to harm them, even resorting to arson in this latest attack,” Ridon said in a statement.

Gabriela Women's Party and labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) said the lumads believe that the Alamara, a paramilitary group backed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), is behind the fire.

“These criminals have been intensifying their harassment of the Lumad and have been serving big foreign and local capitalists who want to evict the Lumad from their land in favor of plantation, mining and logging operations,” KMU said in a statement.

Not the first time

Some 700 refugees who fled from the militarization of their communities in Davao del Norte, Bukidnon and Surigao Del Sur, have reportedly sought refuge in the UCCP-Haran compound since March 2015.

Ridon said it is not the first time that the evacuation camp was attacked.

On July 2015, the UCCP denounced the “brute force” employed by the Davao police and other armed men who raided the church compound.

Ben O. Tesiorna, Davao City-based journalist contributed to this report.