SURIGAO DEL SUR — The Army delayed the unusual convoy of vehicles going to the rural town of Marihatag here, suspecting that the 46th anniversary event of the Communist Party of the Philippines would be held only around the vicinity.
The soldiers removed all unit insignias and personal identification and refused all queries about their battalion and specifically held the van carrying Davao and Butuan-based news reporters for 30 minutes for no apparent reason.
Police personnel also helped soldiers manned the highway checkpoint by joint police and Army forces as they held the journalists and the convoy of others at 4:30pm in Sitio Mabog, Baragay Bayan in Marihatag.
Thousands of residents and members of non-government organizations from across eastern Mindanao, including news reporters, were earlier held by soldiers of the 101st Brigade at around 8:00 am due to an alleged landmine in the same area. The delegation was able to pass through after an hour.
The convoy was supposed to gather to a peace consultation hosted by the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Mindanao as the main event of the CPP anniversary.
The vehicle of the media personnel was first held because of the congestion of about 50 vehicles, mostly trucks and buses, which attendees of the anniversary used for transport.
The soldiers asked to inspect the vehicle and the media granted it but also did not alight the vehicle as per checkpoint protocols.
The media waited in line but were refused to pass through when it’s supposedly their turn to exit.
The soldiers were short of mocking the media personnel and laughed when asked for the reasons for holding them up and asked for identification cards which the media complied but still were not let through.
After much insistence from the media, the officer seemed to have called his higher officer and after a few minutes said: “Ok na daw sabi ng batcom (Battalion Commander) namin, regards nalang daw kay Alvin Luque.”
Asked for their unit and names, the soldiers ignored.
The same military unit held about 20 vehicles earlier but the attendees negotiated their way through. Another batch of 25 vehicles were held after.
The soldiers who held the attendees in the morning were apparently replaced.
The peace consultation which coincides with the founding anniversary of the CPP was attended by an estimate of 20,000 delegates. (John Rizle Saligumba/davaotoday.com)