DAVAO CITY , Philippines — School children, studying in Lumad schools in Talaingod, Davao del Norte, were traumatized after the military conducted an aerial strikes, earlier this week, while pursuing communist rebels, a spokesperson of the Lumad group said.
Jong Monzon, secretary-general of Pasaka-Southern Mindanao Region, a confederation of Lumad organizations, said that last Tuesday afternoon (August 27), state security forces under the Army’s 10th Infantry Division conducted an aerial strike in Sitio Malid, Barangay Dagohoy, in Talaingod, Davao del Norte where a Lumad school is nearly situated.
“This traumatized the teachers and students,” Monzon said, as the exchange of gunshots came just 500 meters away from the Lumad school’s location while Lumad school children were playing outside of their classrooms.
A series of gunshots that lasted for 30 minutes was also heard by the teacher and Lumad students of Salugpongan Ta ‘Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center Incorporated (STTICLC) in Sitio Tibucag, Barangay Dagohoy, Talaingod, Davao Del Norte last August 25 before the Tuesday’s alleged bombing incident, Monzon said.
But Maj. Ezra Balagtey, spokesperson of the Eastern Mindanao Command, said there was an armed encounter between the soldiers and communist rebels last August 27 in Sitio Malid, Barangay Dagohoy, in Talaigod, Davao del Norte.
Balagtey said they need to conduct the aerial strike to extricate their soldiers who were wounded during the encounter.
“For us to extricate them [3 wounded soldiers] we have to conduct close air support, and it was precisely implemented,” he said.
When pressed to comment on PASAKA’s allegation, Balagtey said that their operations are guided by International Humanitarian Law and human rights law, stressing that “it has never been the policy of Eastern Mindanao Command to target schools.”
Meanwhile, Monzon condemned what he called the military’s intensified operations using “indiscriminate aerial bombing” against communist rebels that affected Lumad communities.
“This is a glaring indication of President Duterte’s readiness to pursue his ruthless counterinsurgency campaign, even at the expense of teachers, students, and whole communities,” he said.
Monzon said the attacks against the Lumad schools have impacted on indigenous children, disrupted their schooling, and created the condition where they are denied their basic, fundamental rights to education, development, and self-determination.
“This is not only a violation of international humanitarian law which aim to protect the lives and rights of citizens in situations of armed conflict, but such methods of warfare also cause the forcible displacement of entire communities from their ancestral lands,” the PASAK spokesperson said.
To date, PASAKA has documented 21 cases of aerial bombardments in Southern Mindanao Region. The Lumad group said the military’s aerial attacks targeted several indigenous communities which caused massive displacements, threats, harassments and intimidation against unarmed civilians.(davaotoday.com)