Indigenous people prevent policemen from entering a Protestant church compound in Davao City on July 23. (Photo by Keith Bacongco)
A Protestant bishop and displaced indigenous people in the Philippines have filed a complaint against police and national authorities following a botched eviction attempt at a church in late July.
"It is disheartening how [the police] could disrespect the church and violate people," Bishop Hamuel Tequis of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) told ucanews.com. Tequis said complainants are accusing local and national authorities of “usurpation of authority, physical injuries inflicted in a tumultuous affray, serious physical injuries, qualified trespass to dwelling, grave threats, grave coercion, and malicious mischief”.
The complaints were filed Friday with the Department of Justice, he said.
Philippine National Police officials and others from the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the National Commission on the Indigenous Peoples, the military's Eastern Mindanao Command, and the Alamara paramilitary group were named in the complaint, he said.
Representative Nancy Catamco, a congresswoman, was also named. Police raided the compound in Davao on July 23, allegedly on Catamco’s orders. She is head of the Committee on Indigenous Peoples in the Philippines Congress and had earlier urged indigenous people in the compound to return to their communities.
The people behind Friday’s complaint are questioning the legality of Catamco's order.
"Instead of helping us resolve our problems, they brought us terror," said Datu Benito Bay-ao, one of the indigenous people who filed the complaint Friday.
At least 15 people were hurt when police broke into the UCCP mission house and tried to remove some 700 indigenous people who were seeking shelter there.
They had been living at the evacuation center since May, after fleeing their homes in distant villages because of military operations against communist rebels. The police action only came to an end after Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte intervened.
Last week, human rights groups also launched an online petition calling for the removal of Catamco from the house committee.