Military hamletted Pantukan residents forcibly evacuated, file complaints at the CHR

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MEDIA RELEASE
March 23, 2012

Military hamletted Pantukan residents forcibly evacuated, filed complaints at the CHR

Davao City --- Residents of Brgy. Tibagon, Pantukan, Compostela Valley Province filed today a complaint before the Commission on Human Rights-Region XI Office (CHR XI) against 71st Infantry Battalion for sowing terror through hamletting their community.

Victims from Sitios Cadapa, Sapang Tin-aw and Sapang Lubog in Brgy. Tibagon were maliciously harassed by certain Sgt. Macalanda, Sgt. Mabalot and other 16 army soldiers of 71st IBPA.  On March 8, 2012 at around 12:00 noon, about 18 military men led by certain Sgt. Macalanda and Sgt. Mabalot of 71st Infantry Battalion Philippine Army arrived at the community village of Purok 9 Sitio Sapang Tin-aw, Brgy. Tibagon. The army soldiers who came from the Barrio Site of Brgy. Tibagon, disembarked from a civilian dump truck owned by a local medium-scale miner in the area. They were in full combat gear, wearing complete uniform with high powered firearms. The army soldiers used to hitch a ride in civilian Dam Truck together with other civilians riding the truck even during their military operations; intentionally they do not use their 6x6 truck military vehicle and use civilians as human shields.
 
“The military occupied our purok and 3 houses without any permission even if the households were not around at that time. They did not respect civilian supremacy even I myself as a Purok Chairperson was not respected as a local authority,” said Nellyn Calva, 42, female, married, and Purok Leader of Sitio Sapang Tin-aw.
 
On March 10 at about 6:00-11:30 in the morning, Nellyn Calva and Herculano Sumilhig were called upon by Sgt. Macalanda to report at the purok where the military encamped. “We were interrogated by the military for almost 6 hours without taking our breakfast yet. Inside the purok, we were coerced by Sgt. Macalanda and Sgt. Mabalot to admit that we are members and/or supporters of New People’s Army and that we were trained as Milisyang Bayan, in which we vehemently denied all their untruthful accusations! We are just civilians and simple farmers in our community. Since the military arrived, our personal and economic lives were disrupted! How can they say that they are for peace and development when they continue to sow terror on us?!”, lamented Herculano Sumilhig, 46, male, Vice-Chairperson of CATINLUFA (Cadapa, Tin-aw, Lubog Farmers Association).
 
“They took photos on us and coerced us to sign on a blank paper, we don’t even know what was the purpose of it. They had a list of names and we were asked about the identities of the listed persons whom we knew are our neighbors and even my name was there”, Calva added.
 
On March 11, residents from Purok 8 Sitio Cadapa, Purok 9 Sitio Sapang Tin-aw, and Purok 10 Sitio Sapang Lubog gathered at the purok of Sitio Sapang Tin-aw because it was their meeting for 4Ps as beneficiaries of that program from Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). At about 12:30 in the afternoon, the 4Ps meeting ended. Few minutes later, Sgt. Macalanda presided the meeting. There were 15 residents from Sitio Sapang Lubog, while 17 from Sitio Sapang Tin-aw.
 
“We were interrogated by the military with all the accusations that we are NPA supporters, an army soldier took pictures of us without our consent. They coerced us to sign the attendance with a blank heading. I am a pre-school teacher and I was also malevolently accused as teacher of the NPA and that our school was built by the NPA. How can that be? Since 2007 I became the teacher of the school and was accredited by the Barangay and Department of Education. We have a curriculum and module based on Early Childhood Care and Development Program (ECCD), how can I be an NPA? It is a grave insult on me and my students!,” said Maria Lou Lambo, 23, female, married and pre-school teacher of Sayong Edukasyon Pambata established by Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP).
 
“At that moment, Sgt. Macalanda was very mad and shouted on us, ‘Mga tarantado kayo! Huwag niyo kaming gaguhin! Huwag na kayong magpa-ligoy-ligoy pa! Aminin niyo na nga mga NPA kayo!’ So is this what the military’s Peace and Development all about? Putting the lives of civilians at risk?”, Lambo added. The meeting in purok ended at about 5:30pm, with the residents felt harassed by the military. The people were also warned by the military on forming organizations and joining  march rallies.
 
On March 13 at around 1:00 in the afternoon, the military left the community of Prk 9. Again they hitched a ride again on a civilian dump truck heading towards Sitio Cabahian, Brgy. Tibagon where they dropped off and occupy 2 houses of civilians for encampment.
 
“Even KARAPATAN who dispatched a Quick Reaction Team  (QRT) to document the incident in the area was also harassed on March 14 at around 3:00 in the afternoon. The team of 71st IB led by Sgt. Macalanda conducted illegal checkpoint at Sitio Cabahian, Brgy. Tibagon. There were no signage of checkpoint, they occupy civilian residence, the military wore civilian clothes and they put the QRT on hold for about 15 minutes for interrogation”, said Rev. Jurie Jayme, spokesperson of KARAPATAN-Southern Mindanao.
 
Jayme added that, “On March 18, majority of the residents from Purk 10 forcibly evacuated because they were afraid of the presence of the military as the latter went back to encamped in their community. As of this moment, the military is still in the area, while the residents are displaced and took sanctuary with their relatives in their respective places.”
 
“We are deeply concerned about these recent cases of human rights violations perpetrated by the Palparan Battalion 71st IBPA under the command of Lt. Col. Camilo Ligayo. As trained by the butcher, this battalion is a habitual violator of basic human rights and the international humanitarian law. Harassments were documented, violation of domicile, use of civilians as shields during military operations, encampment in the community, declaring civilians as NPA surrenderees and all forms of coercion and psywar tactics. Generally, 71st IB is hamletting the civilian community and out of fear, majority of the residents forcibly evacuated since March 18, about 77 households with 304 individuals affected,” the KARAPATAN spokesperson explained.
 
“Apologies are not accepted, the military should be held accountable for these degrading treatment and human rights violations that they have done to the victims. Oplan Bayanihan has unleashed its true nature similar with the cold-blooded Oplan Bantay Laya which is doomed to fail. Pres. Aquino should shape-up, it’s almost 2 years and still no improvement on the human rights situation in our country, neither it has a space in his so-called ‘righteous path’,” Jayme ended.#
 
 
FOR REFERENCE:
 
Rev. Jurie Jayme, spokesperson, 09198161876
Hanimay Suazo, secretary-general, 09199675059