By ROXAN VEE TAMPOS
Davao Today Intern
DAVAO CITY – “I assure you that it will not happen again.”
Thus said Mayor Rodrigo Duterte in a dialogue with village officials and residents of Paquibato district over complaints that the Army’s 69th Infantry Battalion forced them to sign “surrender” forms.
But in the same dialogue, Duterte clarified that the military should not withdraw from Paquibato.
Celso Bughao, barangay captain of Barangay Lumiad, Paquibato district said that they have been made to sign different forms, adding that “what they intend to do with it, we do not know. But we have apprehensions about it. It seems to mean that we are NPA (New People’s Army) members who surrendered.”
Barangay captains and functionaries and residents from eight other barangays of Paquibato also gave their testimonies similar to Bughao.
They also complained about how the military interrogates them to “extract information about the NPAs.”
Eduardo Regidor, a councilman of Barangay Paquibato Proper, said Army men have also “occupied” their purok (a multi-purpose structure in the village).
“We told them not to stay at our purok but they didn’t listen. They told us that if we want them out, we should tell Duterte,” said Regidor.
Cesar Templado, a lay worker and teacher of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines in Calinan, Davao City, said he was also branded by the same military unit as a teacher of the NPA.
“We are supposed to bring education to poor village children and yet we are unfairly treated,” he said.
Meanwhile, Duterte believes that “we can’t do anything about (the insurgency in) Paquibato anymore.”
“Since long ago, they are already communists. Their fathers are communists, their uncles are communists because of poverty,” Duterte said.
Duterte believes that the “ideology of the residents must be respected.”
Duterte also explained that he is a “leftist” and is for the land reform that the NPA is advocating.
“For how many years, there is still no land reform,” he said.
He clarified, however, that he cannot participate in the armed struggle that the NPA is waging. “Dili ko gusto makigpatay og Pilipino.” Duterte said.
He also added that the military men should not be pulled-out from the area instead they should maintain a “friendly distance.”
“Dili ko musugot nga mawala ang military kay daghan pa kog laing problema, wa nakoy magamit (I don’t want the military to pull-out as I rely on them to solve some of the city’s problems),” Duterte said.
“The best way to resolve the problem is you in the military, you should go to the Barangay Captain to ask about a certain person,” said Duterte.
However, the barangay functionaries were still apprehensive.
“Just contact me directly if anything will happen,” said Duterte.
Duterte said that he has to meet with military officials to discuss about the issue further and said he would talk again with the barangay officials on Thursday or Friday.
Meanwhile, the City Council’s committee on human rights headed by Third District City Councilor Karlos Bello said the committee has yet to conduct its on-site hearing regarding the reported human rights abuses in Paquibato. (davaotoday.com)