Santiago, Duterte want probe on lumad refugee camp fire

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Four children got hurt from the blaze.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago urged authorities to investigate the alleged arson of an evacuation camp housing lumad refugees in Davao City.

The two presidential candidates on Wednesday (February 24) spoke against the alleged attack on the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP)-Haran compound, where 700 lumads were reportedly taking shelter.

The lumads fled from the militarization of their communities in Davao del Norte, Bukidnon, and Surigao Del Sur.

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“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.

According to the senator, the fire showed how the government has failed to protect the indigenous peoples.

“We have failed the lumads. Let us not renege further on our obligation,” she added.

The fire occurred at around 2 a.m. on Wednesday. The group Defend Talaingod Save Pantaron said that unidentified men burned one of the dormitories inside the compound.

Four of the five people who got hurt were children. They got minor burns and blisters and were brought to the hospital for treatment.

Motorcycle_burn_2_CNNPH.png Some groups alleged that the paramilitary group Alamara was behind the fire. Groups supporting the lumads such as the Kilusang Mayo Uno and Gabriela believe that the Alamara, a paramilitary group backed by the Armed Forces, was behind the alleged attack.

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They called on to Duterte to investigate the fire, as the compound is within his jurisdiction. The mayor has tasked the Davao City Police Office to pursue the probe and assured the public that the city government is on top of the matter.

Meanwhile, senatorial candidate and former Justice Secretary Leila de Lima also expressed her condemnation of the burning.

"The evacuees have been driven away from their lands. Now, they’re being driven away from their temporary shelter. Where do we want them to go?” De Lima said.

She added that the Indigenous People's Rights Act (IPRA) must be reviewed.

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