DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 20 Nov) – Military posts that are supposed to be relocated away from civilian populace in Paquibato District here are still staying near the communities despite the city council’s resolutions, residents said Monday.
In a committee hearing at the city council, Edward Regidor, 42, chairperson of the Farmers’ Association in Barangay Paquibato Proper, said the military forces are still present near their villages, opposing the statement of Lt. Col. Lyndon Paniza, spokesman of the 10th Infantry Division (ID) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
Paniza said in a press statement dated Nov. 16 that the military “had already left the convergence areas and relocated its temporary patrol bases away from the communities even before the passage of the so-called resolution from the city council.”
Last Nov. 9, the city council approved two resolutions, one of which was urging the Armed Forces to relocate its posts from public buildings and near civilian populace in the villages of Lumiad, Pandaitan and Mabuhay in Paquibato. It was authored by Councilor Leah Librado-Yap.
The other resolution, authored by Councilor Jimmy Dureza, was similar but applying to all areas in the city.
“We have evacuated the barangay hall already just like in Barangay Pandaitan, Mabuhay, etc. We will continue our PDOP (Peace and Development Outreach Program) immersion in Paquibato,” Lt. Col. Inocencio Pasaporte, commander of the 69th Infantry Battalion, said in a text message Monday.
But the troops are still in the barangay halls of Lumiad and Mapula, while those who used to stay in the barangay halls of Pandaitan and Mabuhay had transferred to areas that are still near the communities, Regidor told MindaNews.
He said in his village, the troops are camping at the back of the “botika ng barangay” (village pharmacy), while in Mabuhay, they transferred from the barangay hall to the side of a school gym and at the side of the road.
In a resolution approved by the city council last year, the AFP was also warned from installing camps near schools and peasant communities in the city.
Analin Ginita Tesoro, 45, a resident of Pandaitan village, said at the committee hearing that troops moved out from the barangay hall and transferred to a private lot near the road going to Tibungol. The soldiers, she added, form part of a battalion of about 500 personnel.
Paniza said the troops in Paquibato are not there to wage war but to assist the local government unit in its efforts to deliver basic services to the people.
He also clarified in the statement that the 69IB “will not leave Paquibato,” adding that the unit “has already identified a strategic area where its battalion headquarters will be transferred from Panabo City to Paquibato area in due time.”
Regidor stressed that the military brought a “big failure” to the farmers in Paquibato. He said farmers could no longer visit their farms, especially the ones in the hinterland, due to fear of being mistakenly accused as members of the New People’s Army (NPA).
He cited the case of Debirth Sabala, 23, a coconut sap collector who was allegedly accused as NPA member by the military and has been detained at the city jail in Ma-a since last Sept. 21.
Regidor pointed out that since the soldiers arrived in their communities, the residents have not received any assistance or materials from the military to support their livelihood.
“Our villages were peaceful before there were military troops. Instead of protecting us, we feel that they are using us as shields from their enemies,” he said in Cebuano.
Councilor Karlo Bello, chair of the committee on civil, political and human rights, said the military representatives will again be invited for the third committee hearing come Friday as they had not responded to the city council’s invitation for the last two hearings.
In an earlier statement, the children’s rights group Kabiba Alliance for Children’s Concerns vowed to visit villages in Paquibato to monitor and verify if the soldiers under the 10th Infantry Division have already left the premises of barangay halls, daycare centers and other civilian facilities as they have claimed. (Lorie Ann A. Cascaro / MindaNews)