TALAINGOD, Davao del Norte – Ata-Manobo children complained that they were included in sporadic military questioning of residents in this mainly tribal town about the whereabouts of New People’s Army guerrillas, as they and their families later sought refuge in a religious center in Davao City.
A Grade 5 pupil of Nasilaban Elementary School, told Davao Today at their makeshift house inside the Haran compound here, that he and his classmates were asked by government soldiers to tell them where the guerrillas were hiding.
The grade schooler said that the questionings were done even among children and adult residents of Purok 23 Sitio Sambulongan.
He said he was “scared” of the military actions in their school and communities.
Another 17-year-old boy from Barangay Nalubas said soldiers took photographs of residents in his barangay but would not tell them why.
“When we cover our face or show that we don’t like to be photographed, they would threaten us,” he said.
The presence of soldiers in their communities since the first week of March also scared residents from going to the their farms to avoid being singled out or getting caught in any event of a gunbattle with guerrillas.
The child rights group, Children Rehabilitation Center, told Davao Today that the Grade 5 pupil and his classmates had skipped school for several days already before they moved over to the compound along Madapo Hills in Davao City that was maintained by the United Church of Christ in the Philippines.
As of posting, the UCCP has recorded 1,350 Ata-Manobo residents in the compound and said that the tribal families came from the villages of Bagang, Nalubas, Basakan, Saso, Laslakan, Sambulongan, and Bayabas in Barangay Palma Gil, as well as, Sitio Pongpong in Barangay Dagohoy.
Capt. Ernest Carolina, Spokesperson of the Army’s 10th Infantry Division earlier told a radio interview on Thursday, that the Ata-Manobo residents were forced out of their villages “because of the presence of armed men in the area”.
“So they went to another Sitio (Nasilaban) where they are currently located,” he added.
Carolina said that the residents were tricked into believing in the promised of the New People’s Army.(davaotoday.com)talaingod