CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – Authorities on Wednesday have dispelled reports that the hundreds of families in two highland villages in this city fled their homes due to the presence of an armed group on Tuesday night.
Senior Insp. Jerson Estanilla, Lumbia, Police Station chief, said that the more than 300 families from Sitio Batinay in Barangay Tagpangi who left their communities have all gone back home.
The villagers, Estanilla said, were fed wrong information and that there was no presence of armed groups such as the New People’s Army (NPA) in Tagpangi.
Supt. Mardy Hortillosa, the city police spokesperson, told reporters that a resident in Batinay saw a flicker of light in an abandoned house early Tuesday evening prompting him to inform his family and neighbors to pack up on suspicion that a group of armed rebels might be in the vicinity.
“It was just based on suspicion but it spread like wildfire,” Hortillosa said.
In a statement, Col. Edgardo de Leon, commander of the Phil. Army’s 403rd Infantry Brigade has said the report of the presence of the Communist insurgents in Tagpangi was not true.
De Leon said the report was just based on hearsay as the military was able to confirm that there was no presence of armed group in Batinay contrary to the allegation of some residents there.
In a radio interview Wednesday morning, Ka Malin Mabini, the NPA North Central Mindanao Command spokesperson, did not categorically admit nor deny that a group of their fighters were in Tagpangi on Tuesday night.
Mabini, however, said that the NPA rebels pass through Tagpangi and other mountain villages from time to time.
In 2017, about 93 families were forced to flee their homes in another far-flung village in Dansolihon after seeing armed guerrillas in their area.
But their presence was confirmed by the NPA who claimed their fighters were there to conduct “peace lectures” and that they meant no harm.
Hortillosa said that they have been receiving reports of NPA presence in some mountain barangays in the city in the past. (davaotoday.com)