Smarting From Dapecol Raid, AFP Bombs Plantations, Displaces Panabo Families

Apr. 12, 2007

PANABO CITY — About 50 families composed of more than 300 individuals fled their homes after a military air-strike hit Wednesday morning a banana plantation area in barangay Manay, this city.

About 15 kilometers from the poblacion, Manay was the place where the Philippine Air Force OV-10 planes dropped bombs at a banana farm where New People’s Army (NPA) rebels were seen hiding after their successful raid of a jail armory last April 8.

City Disaster Coordinating Council Executive Officer Dennis Devilleres said 120 of the evacuees were children aged 14 years old and below and that there were eight others who were infants.

Devilleres secured the help of the 2nd District Congressional Office which lent out pillows, blankets and mats for the evacuees to sleep on as they passed the night last Wednesday at the Panabo Central School.

The CDCC office made use of its stock goods to provide dinner for the evacuees but Devilleres said he had also gotten help from the private sector.

In his visit to the evacuation site, Panabo City Mayor Rey P. Gavina assured evacuees not only of their safety but also of their meal provision during their stay in the downtown area.

Gavina also saw to it that children especially the infants were given milk and priority in their food ration.

In a separate interview, 39-year old Joel Wenceslao, worker of a plastic manufacturing plant located in Manay, said the plant-owner whom he identified as certain John Rafols told workers to temporarily stop operation after the plant was hit by a stray bullet from a military air-strike.

Gipaundang mi trabaho, bakwit sa mi. Mga kauban nako ni sila, he said referring to other evacuees.

He said around 50 workers of the plastic plant and their families evacuated and came to downtown Panabo.

Meanwhile, Task Force Raptor commanding general Brig Gen Antonio Amodia wondered about the evacuation saying he didnt notice people leaving their homes.

I was there in the area. The residents were there. Marami ngang nakiusyoso, he said in an interview.

He appealed to the local government of Panabo to check where the evacuees were coming from.

Amodia suspected that some groups might just be taking advantage of the situation, knowing that the political season is on and this could be an opportunity to take advantage of whatever is given out.

Amodia made it clear that the situation in Manay has gone back to normal and that the military had no other intention but to go after a group of armed New Peoples Army (NPA) who were seen hiding at the banana plantation in Manay.

The (military) operation was not directed at the civilian. May hinahabol lang kami, he said.

Intelligence report said the same rebel group had raided on Easter Sunday the Davao Penal Colony (Dapecol) and taken away more than 100 firearms.

Amodia bared the air-strike was part of the operation strategy so the ground troop could get at the enemies.

But the ground force failed to strike at the NPAs because they were using the civilians as shields, Amodia said.

As members of the military ground troop entered Manay, the NPAs fired at them but they could not hit back because the NPAs were firing behind lines of civilians, Amodia explained.

The military is still pursuing the NPAs which raided Dapecol and Amodia believes that they are still within Davao del Norte. (PIA XI/JDAbangan)

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