DAVAO CITY – The initial report of a fact-finding group who went to the hinterland villages of Talaingod, Davao del Norte revealed the recurring incidence of state forces’ alleged encampment in schools, public buildings and residential structures.

Rius Fidel Valle, research and advocacy officer of children’s group Children’s Rehabilitation Center  (CRC), said a total of 257 households, two schools, a health center and a tribal hall were “encamped” by operating Army troops in Talaingod.

“They entered houses in Sitio Dangolog and Tibukag in early October of 2014 until January 25 this year. They didn’t care if the residents allowed them or not,” said Valle.

Valle said the group interviewed at least 400 residents from 12 sitios of Barangays Palma Gil and Dagohoy in Talaingod, Davao del Norte, including those from Sitio Dangolog and Tibukag.

“About 253 of them needed medical help,” he said.

Valle and members of groups Act Teachers Partylist, Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation Inc., and Fr. Fausto “Pops” Tentorio Foundation were in Sitio Tibukag Tuesday to conduct a humanitarian relief, medical and psychosocial mission.

The groups, hosted by Manobo indigenous people’s group Salugpungan Ta Ta’nu Igkanugon (STTI), said two schools were allegedly encamped by members of the Army’s 60th and 66th Infantry Battalions.

Valle said among other complaints from residents are “vilification (2 incidents), residents used as guide (2), destruction & divestment of property (1), disruption of economic activities (4), threats, harassment, intimidation (12), illegal detention (2), forced recruitment of residents (to become members of the Alamara paramilitary group (1) and arming of civilians (2).”

The group was in Tagum City Wednesday for a public hearing regarding a harassment case against the Army filed by STTI Learning Center school officials in Sitio Nasilaban in Barangay Palma Gil last October.

“The teachers complained that soldiers opened fire against their schools and accused the school of being owned by the NPA (New People Army communist guerillas),” said Valle.

“The soldiers said they saw NPA in the school premises, that is why they fired the shots,” he said.

Top Army officers, in a dialogue with Mindanao IP leaders, and facilitated by Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte last month, denied troop encampment in schools.

Duterte described it as  “habitation” in public buildings and added that “sometimes they (Army) commit excesses like raising their voices and physical abuse”.

Asked about persistent reports of the Army’s encampment, Duterte said, “(in the dialogue) we three (Eastern Mindanao Commanding General Aurelio Baladad and 10th Infantry Division Commander Eduardo Año) agreed that the military should not occupy school rooms, schools and barangay halls.”

“I say it now again, it is not mine or the generals’ opinion, it is an order long been given. You cannot occupy or treat as your house the barangay halls,” he said.

Duterte said to the Army “if you have nowhere else to go, you dig a foxhole and sleep there. It is where you are trained, you are not trained to occupy houses as your living quarters.” (davaotoday.com)

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