Davao villagers flee homes as military troops build up

Jan. 06, 2013

“Dili man unta mi mamakwit kung wala nangabot ang mga sundalo,” Janet Belendres, 29, a resident of Sitio Kidale

Davao Today

DAVAO CITY, Philippines — About 34 families are now occupying the village hall of Tambobong, an interior village in Baguio District, two hours away from the city center.

This, after they were threatened when troops from the 84th Infantry Battalion arrived from Camp Malagos to their place on Tuesday, January 1.  About a platoon of troops arrived augmented by troops onboard two military trucks and armed personnel carrier on January 3.

Dili man unta mi mamakwit kung wala nangabot ang mga sundalo,” Janet Belendres, 29, a resident of Sitio Kidale, revealed in an interview Saturday, January 5, during the independent fact-finding mission by the peace advocates group Exodus for Justice and Peace (EJP) in the area.

Residents in the sub-villages of Kidale and Kibidtot feared that something might happen since the New People’s Army (NPA) guerillas arrived and stayed in their place a day earlier, conducting medical mission.

NPAs have told residents they are taking the opportunity to deliver services to the civilians now that they are on ceasefire.

“Sa among kabahin, wala namo gidid-an (ang mga NPA).  Naay masakiton, nagpa-check up sa ila.  Ila pud gihatagan og tambal.  Naay nagpa-ibot og ngipon,” said Leo Valla, a native of Kidale and a pastor of a Baptist church here.

Lt. Col. Edgar Nigos, 84th IB Commanding Officer, reportedly said that the NPAs conducted medical mission to “earn Brownie points” as he claimed that the former made forced recruitments.  He reportedly defended their arrival, saying that they only responded to the people who evacuated.

The communist guerillas, according to Valla, came from the areas of Kisagay, Mangas-as and Luyan, conducting medical missions and other activities before arriving in Kidale on December 31.  A day after, when reports reached that government troops are already in the village, “sayo pa sa buntag mitungas na ang mga NPA padulong Kibidtot (in Purok Paglaum),” Valla said, adding that the NPAs are avoiding for ceasefire violations to happen.

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) has declared a unilateral ceasefire on December 20 until January 15 as a confidence building measure for the resumption of the peace negotiations between the Philippine Government (GPH) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.  The GPH, meanwhile, declared a temporary suspension of offensive military operations covering the same period.

But on January 2, a day after the government troops arrived in Tambobong village, the locals started evacuating.

“Ang among gikahadlokan, kung magbinakbakay ang sundalo batok NPA,” Belendres said, emphasizing that they would have not evacuated if not for the military’s arrival.

The EJP has launched an investigation here following reports that the NPA allegedly “abducted” civilians and paramilitary Cafgus, and terrorized the residents.  However, residents said otherwise.

“Maayo man kaayo sila (mga NPA).  Mangayo man og katahoran,” Belendres said.

Her observations were affirmed by Valla,s aying, “Moanha (ang mga NPA) sa balay, makig-istorya.  Magpa-ila nga anaa sila sa rebolusyon, mga sundalo sa kabus.”

Valla also denied reports of NPA abuses.  “Wala man silay abuso nga gihimo,” he said, adding that reports of abduction were also false.

“Katong giingon nga gi-kidnap, gi-abduct, kung akoy pasultihon, miuban gyud to sila sa ilang pagbuot.  Kaila man nako sila, taga Laputan kasagaran, taga Laling, nakit-an nako sila, naay taga kibidtod sakop ni Datu Ismael Gubat.  Kung gikidnap pa sila, siyempre ginapos unta.  Pero wala man (sila gigapos), kay naggunit na man pud og armas.”

About nine young residents reportedly joined the NPA but four of them already returned home.

Earlier, the military alleged that the NPA “abducted” nine individuals, including Cafgus.

“Wala may cafgu nga taga Tambobong akong nailhan nga giuban nila.  Puros sibilyan akong nailhan didto,” Valla said.  “Naay cafgu nga gisak-an nila, si Romeo Bulod, pero gihinabi lang nila.  Nakig-istorya lang nila.  Wala man pud naunsa si Romeo Bulod, naa ra man dinha.  Wala pud ko kita nga miuban na si Romeo bulod (sa NPA),” he added.

Meanwhile, Ka Simon Santiago, Political Director of NPA’s Southern Mindanao Regional Operations Command said that NPA’s merely had a dialogue with seven Cafgus on their economic situation and livelihood.  He said it was “not an abduction, detention or interrogation.”  The dialogue happened during the NPA’s CPP anniversary celebration.

The rebel spokesman also said that they “even refrained from disarming one of the Cafgus, Romeo Bulod, who had a 9-mm pistol.”

He also said that the operations of the 84th IB resulted in the “forced evacuation of some 125 families in sitio Paglaum, Kidali,Luyan, Likuyan, Sumani and Lamod,”adding that Sumifru workers were also “forced to stop from going to work” as the military also  “checked the entry and exit of food supplies like rice.”

Nigos reportedly said that the control of food supplies and hamletting was to provide security to the people in the area.

The military movement, according to NPA’s Santiago, was meant to punish the residents for “being with the NPAs during the CPP anniversary celebration last December 26.”  (Medel V. Hernani/davaotoday.com)

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