DAVAO CITY – Residents of a village in Baganga town, Davao Oriental have fled and refused to return to their village two weeks after the Army accused them of relaying information of troop movements to the New People’s Army, a human rights group said.
The Karapatan-Southern Mindanao said residents of Sitio Kasunugan in Barangay Mahan-ub, Baganga have stayed in another village and would not return yet to their villages.
They fled from their village in the aftermath of an NPA ambush on May 22 in the barangay where the Army said they suffered two soldiers killed.
An NPA statement signed by a Rigoberto F. Sanchez, spokesperson of the NPA Southern Mindanao Regional Command, said its 3rd and 8th Pulang Bagani Companies ambushed “a 14-man PDOP (peace and development outreach program)” squad of the 67th IB at 8 am on May 22 in Sitio Kasunugan”.
Sanchez said the guerrillas killed three soldiers and wounded another.
The residents told a relief mission attended by Karapatan that Army battalion called them “traitors” and “liars”.
Hanimay Suazo, secretary general of Karapatan, said a relief mission organized by the Exodus for Justice and Peace on May 30-June 2 “revealed the extent of effects of military presence in the area.”
“The civilian population was accused of coordinating the military’s movements with the NPA, leading to the ambush of the former,” she said.
“We have spoken with the residents of Sitio Kasunugan who have been labelled as traitors and liars by elements of the 67th IBPA, under the suspicion that they gave the signal for the NPA to set-up an ambush,” she said.
Suazo said farmer Ricky Basig was told “imposible jud na wala ka kabalo nga naa sila’ (it is impossible that you did not know that they (NPA) were just around).”
“He was told ‘bantay lang ka kung maigo pa mi, ikaw among patyon’ (You watch out because if we get hit one more time, we will kill you),” Suazo said.
The 67th IB commander, Lt. Col. Michael Banua, said Karapatan’s allegation “is a lie”.
“What transpired was a dialogue among the local officials, residents and the soldiers, to make the villagers resilient,” Banua said.
He said, they are loved by the people in the area. Banua said they will continue their operations “to protect the residents” from the NPAs.
Suazo, however, said “residents fear that the military might accuse them further if they are seen in their far-flung farms.”
Thirty-six homes in Sitio Patong, a nearby area in Kasunugan, have also evacuated after the incident.
“Up to now, these families have yet to return to their daily economic activities,” Suazo said. (davaotoday.com)
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