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Sunday, August 25, 2019

Militants, evacuees call for military pull-out

MILITANT groups and evacuees from Talaingod town in Davao del Norte called on the government agencies to pull out military troops from their communities, especially in Barangay Palma Gil, following the alleged nuisance and aerial bombings in the area.

Close to 1,000 of the Talaingod Manobo evacuees, including their datus and representatives, trooped to the National Commission for the Indigenous People (NCIP) and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) office in Davao City on Tuesday morning, to reiterate their call to pull out the military troops from their community.

The ongoing struggle between the government forces and members of the New People’s Army (NPA) in some areas in Talaingod in Davao del Norte forced 206 families or 927 individuals, of which 503 are children, to flee and leave their hometown earlier this month.

Datu Doloman Dawsay, spokesperson of the evacuees, said the soldiers already established their camp in the middle of the communities, putting the lives of the residents at risk, especially when military allegedly staged aerial bombing and tagged some residents of the area as supporters of the NPA.

"We are the targets of the military. It's not true that we are caught in between the battle of the armed forces and communist rebels. When the military bombed our communities and occupied them, did they find rebels? No, because the military's real targets are us," Dawsay said.

Dawsay stressed that the NCIP and the CHR were supposed to protect their lives and welfare. But instead, the two government agencies have so far been inutile, he added. He also said that they had been protecting their land but the NCIP and CHR did nothing for them.

But Talaingod Mayor Basilio A. Libayao, on the other hand, denied the accusations of the militant organizers against the local government unit and government forces. Libayao said there were no reports of harassments or abuses and aerial bombing that has been committed by the military in the area.

"Had there been, I would be the first one to protect my constituents. Where are the helicopter gunships they speak of? There is none. What's there is the New People’s Army (NPA) rebel camp. There has never been any harassment or aerial bombing from the government troops in the area," Libayao told Sun.Star Davao in vernacular.

Colonel Harold N. Cabreros, commander of the Philippine Army's 1003rd Brigade, earlier said residents sought the assistance of their troops from the 60th Infantry Battalion (60IB), 68th IB, and Special Forces, following the presence of the New People's Army (NPA) in town.

The Municipal Council of Talaingod declared a state of calamity last April 1 and has allotted an initial amount of 500,000 to cater the needs of the evacuees. But the militant organizations started removing the evacuees after the declaration, which is an act considered by Libayao as an insult to his constituency.
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