by John Rizle Saligumba
Soldiers and paramilitary forces who “tortured” four Agusanon youths continued their military operations in Agusanon, triggering an evacuation of 423 residents from four barangays (villages),a rights groups group said.
Initial reports from Karapatan Southern Mindanao showed that Agusanon residents fled on Sunday from Barangays Kauswagan, Sabud, Mansanitas and San Mariano. The residents along with 224 children evacuated to Barangay Kauswagan Elementary School.
Residents said they experienced harassment from the 26th Infantry Battalion and the paramilitary Bagani Force who had been conducting operations in their communities since two weeks ago.
Karapatan’s Hanimay Suazo said the troops increased to around a company-sized formation, and continued to harass the residents who evacuated in the school by taking pictures of them.
Loreto Mayor Dario Otasa, himself a Lumad Agusanon, is said to have organized the paramilitary Bagani Force.
Human Rights Watch earlier wrote to President Benigno Aquino III urging him to disband paramilitary forces all over the country for its involvement in violating human rights especially in far-flung areas.
Loreto is a third class municipality in Agusan del Sur with a population of more than 30,000.
(John Rizle L. Saligumba/davaotoday.com)