By DAVAO TODAY
Davao City – Some 300 tribal Matigsalugs camped out in the Compostela municipal gym Friday to ask local officials to order the pull out of 120 soldiers who occupied houses and the public school in Barangay Mangayon, Compostela town of Compostela Valley Province.
Matigsalug leader Cristina Lantao said troops from the Army’s 25th Infantry Battalion arrived in their community in Sitio Bermuda, Purok 4 on Wednesday and told them they would occupy their village while conducting a three-week operation against the New People’s Army.
Lantao said their plea to the soldiers to leave was brushed off.
The Army’s 10th Infantry Division said in a statement the residents fled their homes in Sitio Side 4 at 10:00 am “due to the threatening presence of New People’s Army in their community.”
Lt. Colonel Elmer Aterrado, commander of the 25th IB said the residents evacuated to Purok 17, Sitio Lubog, Barangay Ngan of Compostela town.
Aterrado said his troops went to Sitio Side 4 to respond to the report of residents when “they were fired upon by the NPAs. No casualties were reported”.
But Lantao rebuffed Aterrado’s statement, saying there were no NPAs in their area.
She said she was worried that about the fate of the rehabilitation projects for them, including the 61-hectare farm and school-rebuilding.
“We have 61 hectares agricultural farm, some horses, pig and chickens. The military might kill or destroy them because they want to tell the people what they are doing against us. We have four classrooms that are not yet finished. These are donated by some fathers and brothers and schools in Davao, we just want to recover from Pablo,” said Lantao.
In a separate statement from another group of survivors of typhoon Pablo, the Compostela Farmers Association, said two howitzer cannons and armored personnel carrier tanks were stationed in the viilage’s detachment in Sitio Spur Dos.
The group’s leader, Bello Tindasan, said the detachment was located “right within the community, less than 20 meters away from houses”.
Tindasan said residents of other sitios such as Bongkilaton, Puting Bato and Barangay Panansalan also complained about the military presence in their communities saying this might turn their villages into a battleground.
The Balsa Mindanao, which provided a rehabilitation project for the Matigsalugs, visited them at their evacuation area on Saturday and expressed the same concern of the tribe.
“It hurts to hear about this. We have our intervention after Pablo, such as this effort to have them go back to their farms for their food security. Fifty hectares of their farms in Side 4 are planted with rice and 11 hectares with corn. The implication is they might lose their harvests,” Balsa coordinator Francis Morales said.
Morales also criticized the soldiers for occupying the school building which he said would scare off the children. He said the donation for school rebuilding came from the Redemptorist Church.
He said a negotiation would take place on Sunday between the local government, headed by Mayor Lema Bolo, Matigsalug leaders, military officials and support groups to demand the pull out of troops.
“From what I heard, the residents will not go back (to their community) until they can get a MOA (Memorandum of Agreement) in black and white,” he added.
Morales pointed out that the military operation cover the areas being eyed for an oil palm plantation by the Agusan Petroleum Corporation, owned by Eduardo Cojuangco, the uncle of President Benigno Aquino III.
“If you see, from Panansalan, Bango, Mambusao, Bongkilaton, Side Four, you see the increase of troops. You can add it together,” Morales said. (davaotoday.com)Compostela, Indigenous, Indigenous Peoples, lumad, typhoon Pablo