The farmers expected their distress calls to be heard but the City Council session ended Tuesday without a resolution, as the councilors prioritised the approval of a new liquor ban.
By CHERYLL D. FIEL
DAVAO CITY, Philippines– Hundreds of picketing Paquibato farmers at the City Council were dismayed after a councilor questioned why the latter asked for a pull-out of military troops—a subject of an earlier City Council-approved resolution.
During a three-day “camp-in” at the Council grounds, farmers like Nora Bagayno, a mother of four who lives in Sitio Banban in Barangay Lumiad, Paquibato, said soldiers have been staying in homes and in their farms.
“Gani, ang ilang duyan, nakahikot sa haligi sa among silingan (Their hammocks are even tied to the posts of our neighbor’s house),” she said.
“Usahay, kanang mangahoy sila, moadto na sila sa amoa. Ug madasmagan na silag mga NPA diha, di mangapagan pud mi kaay naa ra man sila nagpondo duol sa amoa (Sometimes, they also go to our house looking for firewood. If the NPAs will attack, we will surely be endangered because they are staying near us),” she said.
Bagayno said soldiers even warned residents that should NPA landmines hit one of their men, they would finish off residents of the area where the attack would occur.
Last November, the City Council passed a resolution seeking the pull out of military detachments from places near schools and public facilities, after councilors were told that the military used village halls, gymnasium and schools in Paquibato as their detachments.
But residents who trooped to the Council said the soldiers are still lingering in their areas. One farmer from Paradise Embac said soldiers are still encamped near a school in Sitio Ginubatan and would imbibe on alcoholic drinks nightly.
Another farmer said soldiers conducted a “census” last week, and the questions included, “do they have relatives who are with the NPA (New People’s Army)?”
With these reports, farmer leaders spoke during the City Council session Tuesday.
Councilor Karlos Bello, who chairs the committee on human rights, stood up and proposed to amend the existing resolution.
But second district Councilor Jimmy Dureza questioned the intentions of Bagayno, who spoke during the Council session.
“Unsa may problema kung modaghan ang sundalo didto sa erya? Siguro mas secure gani mo kay naay moproteksyon ninyo nga sundalo (What is your problem if there will be more soldiers in your area? Maybe you will be even more secure because the soldiers can give you protection),” Dureza told Bagayno on the floor.
“Sir, para sa amoa dili jud maghatag og proteksyon, (Sir for us, this is not happening),” Bagayno retorted.
The mere presence of the soldiers alone, she said, already constitutes a threat. “Kung pananglitan ang mahitabo sulongon sa mga NPA ang mga sundalo sa panahon nga kami naa sa among mga kabalayan, maapil man gyud mi ana, (What if the NPAs will attack the soldiers during time when they are near the houses of residents? Surely we will all be in harm’s way),” she continued.
Bagayno said they have experienced being threatened by the soldiers. Her father-in-law was approached by soldiers and was asked if he has a spade or shovel because they would use it to dig his grave.
Dureza, however, went to the point of telling Bagayno that she, instead, ask the NPA to stop their war and release the captured soldiers.
Aha kahay maayo og ang inyong hangyo sa konseho nga dili na lang papahawaon ang sundalo pero hangyoon na lang ang NPA nga iparelease ang ilang dinakpan. Mas maayo siguro ingon ana para maundang ang gyera?…Kaila man na ninyo si Parago diha. (What if, you ask the Council that you would no longer seek the pull out of soldiers and instead, you would ask the NPA to release the military that they captured? Wouldn’t it be better that way to stop the war? … Isn’t it that you know Parago?”
Bello interjected Dureza’s questioning, saying “We have to consider that Ms. Nora is not a member of the NPA. She is a resident of Paquibato,” Bello addressed the floor.
Bello said Bagayno was just trying to point out how the military operations have affected the residents.
Bagayno told davaotoday after the session that she was dismayed by Dureza’s questions, “Imbis nga paminawon mi, mura na man gilambigit na hinoon mi sa NPA (Instead of being heard, it seemed to me that he even associated us with the NPAs).”
She said they wanted the soldiers to pull out as it has affected their livelihood and safety.
Josie Rosales,66, a resident of Lumiad, who also joined the camp-in said the military have augmented their troops in the area since the June 17 incident when NPAs captured five soldiers in Bangkaan, Paquibato Proper and held them as Prisoners of War.
Military troop reinforcement allegedly belong to the 69th IB, 66th IB, 4th IB and members of Scout Rangers.
But Rosales said soldiers are staying at an abandoned barangay health center in Lumiad, and a military detachment is situated near a school in Barangay Paquibato proper.
Rosales said the presence of soldiers affected her livelihood. “Unsaon na lang ang among mga tanum nga lubi, cacao, saging kung dili masubay kada adlaw, tungod kay dili masubidahan sa bukid kay basin, unsa palay mahitabo, magka-engkwentro ba kaha diha, o maalaan ba, (What will happen to our coconuts, cacao, bananas if we can’t tend to them every day, because if we go to the farms what happens if there would be an encounter?)” she said.
The farmers expected their distress calls to be heard but the City Council session ended Tuesday without a resolution, as the councilors prioritiesed the approval of a new liquor ban. (Cheryll D. Fiel, davaotoday.com)