KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews/ 21 July)—An official of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Eastern Mindanao Command (EastMinCom) has called on the alleged victims of human rights violations in the recent fighting in Magpet, North Cotabato to file their complaints directly to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and not with other groups.
Col. Leopoldo Galon, EastMinCon Civil Relations Group chief, said the CHR in Region 12 is the right agency to hear complaints against human rights violations.
Alleged infractions of the military include the torching of civilians’ houses, using children as guides during military operations, and mortar shelling.
“These allegations are serious. So that it will not end as just a mere propaganda, I suggest the victims file a case at the CHR. If its filed with Karapatan, then it becomes a propaganda,” Galon said.
Karapatan is a militant human rights group.
Without casting aspersions on the victims, Galon hinted that their statements during media interviews could be “half truths.”
“Without the victims knowing it, they could be used in the propaganda of the other groups,” he stressed.
Magpet town, located at the hinterlands of Mount Apo, is considered as one of the “biggest bases” of the New Peoples’ Army (NPA) in Southwestern Mindanao.
In fact, Galon said the town has become the venue of the recent release of NPA hostages and “it is also where new breed of rebels are trained.”
“As proof, some of those that died during recent armed encounters in nearby Bukidnon province were from Magpet. The group that allegedly extorts money from contractors doing road construction in North Cotabato towns is also hiding in Magpet,” said Galon.
The killers of Patrick Winiger, a Swiss-Filipino national whom the Army claimed as their partner in peace-building in Mindanao, were also from Magpet.
The communist rebels admitted killing Winiger because of his alleged involvement in the killing in October 2011 of Italian missionary Fausto Tentorio.
“We want to crush the rebels’ enclaves and their bases in Magpet. We want a stop to their extortion activities not only in Magpet but also in nearby towns,” Galon said.
He claimed the capture of one of the rebels’ biggest camp in North Cotabato after the fierce fighting on Monday hurt the NPAs “so much” that they tried to divert peoples’ attention to other issues, such as the allegations on human rights violations.
The camp, as described by Lt. Nasrullah Sema, chief of the civil military operations of the 57th IB, can accommodate at least 300 combatants.
It has at least 16 bunkers. The rebels also planted ‘bamboo traps’ near the camp, Sema said. (Malu Cadelina Manar/ MindaNews)