TALAINGOD, Davao del Norte -- Talaingod town Mayor Basilio Libayo apologized to Mayor Rodrigo Duterte for the ruckus caused by over a thousand of his constituents who evacuated to Davao City after government troops allegedly "occupied some civilian communities and conducted aerial bombing" in their area.
Libayo said, "Ako nagapangayo ug pasaylo diha kay Mayor Rodrigo Duterte mahitungod kay diha nagsinamok ang among mga residente (I sincerely apologize to Mayor Rody for all the inconvenience that our residents have caused his city)."
He also thanked Duterte for the relief assistance provided by the City Government of Davao to the Lumads.
The local authorities here may file charges against the organizers who convinced Manobo lumads to evacuate in Davao City.
At least 309 families or 1,353 individuals from sitios of Pongpong, Nalubas, Bagang, Bayabas, Saso, Lasakan, Sambolongan, and Bugni, all from Barangay Palma Gil in Talaingod town of Davao del Norte, evacuated to Davao last April 1, following the military operations of the 68th Infantry Battalion (68IB), 60th IB, and Special Forces.
But speaking during a press conference in Barangay Sto. Nino in Talaingod, Colonel Harold Cabreros, commander of the Army's 1003rd Brigade, denied military encampment in houses and school buildings on the area, especially aerial bombing.
Cabreros said residents sought the assistance of their troops after the rebels threatened the lumad communities, thus, the Philippine Army's 10th Infantry Division launched a series of military operations in town.
But there's no aerial bombing that transpired in Barangay Palma Gil, he added.
"The root cause of the situation is the presence of the communist rebels in the communities. In fact, the troops were deployed to conduct peace and development outreach program when they encountered members of the New People's Army (NPA) Front Committee 55," Cabreros said.
Libayo said there is no truth on the claim of the organizers who were only using the lumads to take a direct part in the hostilities.
He added that if there were really harassments, aerial bombing, and any abuse in his town, he should be the first one to know.
"In fact, the troops found several NPA encampments in the communities in Barangay Palma Gil, reinforcing evidence on the presence of the armed groups in the area. There were also several improvised landmines seized inside their (NPA) camp," Cabreros said.
Libayo, on the other hand, ordered the Talaingod Municipal Police Station to conduct investigation as to whether the organizers who convinced the lumads to evacuate in Davao City could be held responsible.
Superintendent Jessie Estrada, deputy chief of the Davao del Norte Provincial Police Office, vowed to conduct investigation on the incident. He said they will look into the possibility of filing charges against the organizers, if they will be proven guilty.
"Pag-aaralan namin itong nangyari. We will coordinate this with the local government unit and Commission on Human Rights. Ngayon kung meron kaming makitang butas o mali duon sa nangyari, we'll file charges against the organizers," Estrada said.
Meanwhile, Vice Mayor Francisco Gipulla Jr. urged the evacuees, who are now at the United Church of Christ of the Philippines, to return to Talaingod town.
He said the local government has prepared relief assistance and evacuation center for them, adding that the evacuees will receive P500,000 worth of financial assistance from the local government unit of Talaingod.
Barangay Palma Gil, where the evacuees came from, was also put under the state of calamity.
"Palihog lang papauli namo. Lisod kaayo ang kinabuhi sa syudad (Davao City) hilabi na kung wala mo naanad dira (Just return home because life is difficult there in Davao City)," said Datu Lumansad Sibugan, a tribal leader in Barangay Palma Gil in Talaingod town, Davao del Norte.