Missioners were already on their way back to the town center from Sitio Limot in Barangay Binondo, the site of their relief mission, when their contingent met a roadblock allegedly set up by members of the Philippine Army’s 67thInfantry Battalion. The missioners are forced to spend the night in Sitio Cabuyao Nursery, Barangay Binondo in Baganga, the site of the infamous “Baganga Massacre” that killed three children in August 2002 when military allegedly strafed a house of the resident where members of the New People’s Army (NPA) were believed to be staying.
By JOHN RIZLE L. SALIGUMBA
Davao City, Philippines – About 70 missioners extending relief and humanitarian assistance to victims of typhoon Pablo in the remote town of Baganga, Davao Oriental, are currently stranded in an interior village after meeting roadblocks allegedly by the military on their way.
The missioners are forced to spend the night in Sitio Cabuyao Nursery, Barangay Binondo in Baganga, the site of the infamous “Baganga Massacre” that killed three children in August 2002 when military allegedly strafed a house of the resident where members of the New People’s Army (NPA) were believed to be staying.
Sitio Cabuyao Nursery is still a two-hour-ride by Saddam, a kind of logging truck, to the town center.
Missioners were already on their way back to the town center from Sitio Limot in Barangay Binondo, the site of their relief mission, when their contingent met a roadblock allegedly set up by members of the Philippine Army’s 67th Infantry Battalion.
A nun, Sr. Noemi Degala, one of the participants told davaotoday.com that logs were placed on the road upon reaching Sitio Tigbawan of the same village, forcing them to alight from their vehicles.
The drivers of the trucks, Sr. Degala said, abandoned the vehicles for fear, leaving the missioners no choice but to start treading the road until they reach Sitio Cabuyao Nursery, four hours later.
“We are tired, and we are running out of food provisions. Water is getting scarce,” Sr. Degala told davaotoday.com in a text message. The place has no electricity and telecommunication signal is also sparse.
The missioners arrived in Baganga proper on April 18, and left for an eight hour travel via Saddam trucks to Sitio Limot in Barangay Binondo, on April 19, where they extended relief assistance, medical and psychosocial services to the community where slain food protest leader Cristina Jose served as village councilor.
Jose, a leader of Barug Katawhan, the movement of typhoon Pablo victims who protested government for alleged neglect and corruption of relief and rehabilitation fund in the aftermath of disaster, was killed days after the barricade that the group mounted in front of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) regional office in Davao City.
The mission is composed of health and social workers, teachers, students, nuns and other members of the religious, including sectoral leaders and members of progressive organizations from across the country.
Davao Oriental Governor Corazon Malanyaon, in a text message to davaotoday.com said they have no knowledge of the incident. “I have no way of knowing sa (Sitio) Limot kasi walang signal (There is no phone signal in Limot),” Malanyaon said.
However she said she has information from Baganga Police of the presence of the group “investigating the death of the Cristina Jose.” She said, police even “escorted” the groups and that “there were no untoward incidents.”
Meanwhile, 67th IB commanding officer Lt. Col. Krishnamurti Mortela denied that his men were involved in any harassment against the participants of the mission.
He said the local government and the military are even helping them “extricate” in the area “even if they had not coordinated their efforts with us, and instead independently initiated the activities in the area.”
“Magtanong po kayo sa mga tao dito kung totoo yan, you can also ask our local officials. (You can ask the residents if those are true).Our soldiers die every day and it is not good to discredit their sincere services and sacrifices,” Mortela added.
Members of environment group Panalipdan Southern Mindanao, upon receiving reports from the participants gathered at the street in Davao City for a protest, condemning the military for the harassment of the mission participants.
Sheena Duazo, spokesperson of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan Southern Mindanao said the military and the governor herself are motivated by fear that the National Fact Finding Mission would eventually “uncover the human rights abuses, environmental plunder and the use of relief goods intended for Pablo victims for their political campaign.” (John Rizle L. Saligumba/davaotoday.com)
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