Military operations in Cotabato hamper livelihood, groups call for pullout
“Unsaon pa namo pag-tapping sa goma kay mahadlok man mi nga dudahan mi (nga mga NPA) kung naa nami sa among kaumahan (How could we go to work when they might find us in our farms and charge us as NPAs?),” one of the evacuees from Sto. Nino village told a local radio station here.
By DANILDA L. FUSILERO
MAKILALA, Cotabato, Province — Dread engulfs residents as continuing “clearing operations” of the AFP’s 57th Infantry Battalion sweep remote upland villages here.
Military operations in pursuit of NPA rebels they encountered on January 22 in Barangay Cabilao drove residents in nearby villages out of their homes.
One of the evacuees from Sto. Nino village told a local radio station here that they have not yet returned to their home, afraid that the soldiers are still there. She is still in an evacuation center with her six children until now.
The resident who requested anonymity also decried the presence of the military saying this has kept them from work.
“Unsaon pa namo pag-tapping sa goma kay mahadlok man mi nga dudahan mi (nga mga NPA) kung naa nami sa among kaumahan (How could we go to work when they might find us in our farms and charge us as NPAs?)” she said.
The children’s rights advocacy group Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC) has also spoken against the ongoing military operations after a nine-year old lumad girl was hit by stray bullets when another firefight between the AFP and the rebels occurred midnight of January 25 in Sitio Alang-alang, Kisante village.
Kisante village Chairman Danilo Dante confirmed the incident but said the military’s claim that the girl was hit by an explosion of an improvised bomb planted by the NPAs could not be possible. “The explosion was 300 meters away from the house,” he said in an interview with davaotoday.com.
The girl sustained a wound in her left ear and is now recovering in a local hospital in Kidapawan City.
CRC’s Advocacy Officer Rius Fidel Valle cited this incident is not the first time.
“This is the fifth case that children’s safety was put in danger during war and this is a clear violation on the protection rights of the children,” Valle said citing R.A 7610 or the Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act.
In the two years, at least five children were violated of their “protection rights” during military operations in Magpet and Makilala towns, noted the CRC.
For Valle, this latest incident “only indicates that the AFP’s presence only invites armed encounters which only jeopardize the safety of children and the residents in the locality.”
Partylist group Katribu’s Bai Norma Capuyan lambasted the ongoing deployment of AFP troops in the remote villages of Makilala covering Cabilao, Luayon, Rodero, Sto. Nino, Biangan and Kisante, saying this is a “continued militarization.”
She deplored that the villages currently deployed with AFP troops are areas of lumads and poor peasants.
“Human sa Arakan ug Magpet, karon Makilala napud, ug kasagaran ra ba sa mga apektadong komunidad iya sa mga lumad ug gagmay’ng mag-uuma (After Arakan and Magpet, they are now in Makilala, and most of the affected communities are areas of lumads and peasants),” Capuyan said.
For Capuyan, continued military operations prove nothing to end the insurgency problem. “Instead it only poses more danger on the communities and dislocate the lumads and farmers from their livelihood,” she added.
Meanwhile, Makilala Mayor Rudy Caoagdan said that an ongoing investigation is being conducted by his office in the affected villages, particularly on the case of the wounded girl.
He added that Makilala-LGU is set to conduct a series of community consultations in the affected villages, aimed at documenting sentiments of the communities over the presence of military detachments in their respective areas. (Danilda L. Fusilero/davaotoday.com)