DAVAO CITY – A survivor of an alleged massacre of farmers in Paquibato District here appeared before a committee hearing of the Davao City Council Wednesday to tell her account of the incident.
Rosita Sandolan said she was asleep inside the house when she was suddenly roused from sleep by the sound of gunfire and three bullets hit her pillows midnight of June 14.
“Another bullet hit the staircase as I was coming down before I dropped to the ground and under our house,” she said.
Nanay Sita is the mother of Aida Seisa, a woman peaseant-leader who owns the house and who survived the incident.
Three others, namely, Datu Ruben Enlog, Randy Carnasa, a purok (village) leader and farmer Oligario Quimbo were killed in what human rights group call “Paquibato massacre.”
Nanay Sita said Aida told her to cook rice at around 8pm because neighbors will eat with them.
“I did not know that it was the birthday of Aida’s daughter. I already slept by 9pm,” she said.
While she was hidden, Nay Sita said she heard Carnasa “bai, naigo ko, tabangi ko (I’m hit, please help me).”
“I did not see Randy till the morning the next day but I heard shouts aguy-aguy (ouch, ouch). Maybe he was finished-off. I don’t really know,” said Nay Sita.
At her vantage point, Nay Sita said she saw soldiers come inside their house.
“They scoured our things. They took cellphones owned by Aida, her husband and their children,” she said.
Nanay Sita also said she saw the soldiers leave in two vans at 4 am and were replaced by another batch.
“I only got out 5am when the neighbors were already gathered at the house,” she said.
Meanwhile, Nanay Sita said Aida and the three victims “were not NPAs (New People’s Army)” as alleged by the Army.
“We are all farmers who have to struggle everyday planting root crops, bananas and other food. Randy is even our kaabag (lay worker). My daughter’s work is to voice out the complaints of Paquibato farmers,” she said.
Sita said soldiers asked her “where can we find Parago (Ka Parago Sandoval of the NPA)?”
“I told them I do not know and I only saw him on TV with the Mayor (Rodrigo Duterte),” she said.
Sita said police forces only arrived 11:30am of Sunday.
Last Wednesday, Major General Eduardo Año, commander of the Army’s 10th Infantry Division, said the three were “members of the NPA.”
Año said what happened was a “legitimate encounter” and that the three were “positive for powder burns.”
He said they were serving a warrant of arrest to Ka Parago and a certain “Ka Opaw.”
Año said they would file a case of obstruction of justice and illegal possession of explosives against Seisa.
Third District Councilor Karlo Bello, chair of Committee on Civil, Political and Human Rights of the Davao City Councilr said that “they (Army) cannot just dismiss this as a legitimate encounter.”
“On the other hand, on the story of the relatives, this is a massacre,” said Bello.
Bello said the Army wanted to send a spokesperson but he said “they cannot just send anyone. They have to present those who took part in the gunfight.”
“I have heard and I cannot confirm that the warrant is to be served to Aida Seisa. How can you serve when she is not subject of the warrant? Secondly, the subject of the warrant is Pitao and Nelson but the ones killed were Carnasa, Quimbo and Enog,” he said.
“That is why we were hoping the military personnel to be here to give us their version as these things are not yet clear,” said Bello.
Meanwhile, Police authorities present during the hearing said they found no empty bullet shells inside the house but only in the surrounding areas.
Bello also said the Army must answer questions regarding the actual serving of the warrant whom he said “must have had prior coordination with the police.”
First District Councilor Leah Librado, vice-chair of the committee, asked the police why they only arrived on the scene at about noon of the next day.
Police officials said the Army told them that all state forces were advised to come to the area as one because of some security precautions.
For human rights group Karapatan, who made a fact-finding mission on the site, “there was no encounter and that residents in the area said there were no NPAs present.”
“All shots were directed towards the house of Seisa,” said Hanimay Suazo, spokesperson of Karapatan.
Suazo said that the lives of witnesses “are under threat.”
“Before this incident, Aida Seisa also asked our help as she have been receiving threats from military personnel,” said Suazo.
Bello said they would conduct next committee hearing onsite in Barangay Paradise Embac.(davaotoday.com)