Bayan Muna Cotabato chapter spokesman Bebiano Gabo, said that the complaint stemmed from an incident that took place last January 16 in Sitio Upper Lumbo, Barangay Kabalantian in Arakan.
The victims said the soldiers violated their rights stipulated under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).
CARHRIHL was signed between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front during the administration of President Fidel V. Ramos to safeguard the rights of non-combatants.
The talks had been suspended.
The victims, most of them Manobo natives from Upper Lumbo, told Gabo that they were harassed by a group of soldiers who had encountered some New Peoples Army (NPA) rebels in the area an hour earlier.
They said the soldiers arbitrarily searched at least 10 houses in the village.
“They were looking for guns. They accused the natives as members or sympathizers of the NPA,” Gabo said in an interview over radio station dxND.
He added that one of the soldiers fired at a male native after he saw him surface from an abandoned lot, suspecting him to be a rebel.
“The victim, however, survived the shooting incident. But was traumatized after that,” Gabo said.
On January 22, days after the victims sought help from the local government of Arakan, local officials, including the village chair, conducted a dialogue between the residents and the soldiers.
“During the dialogue, the soldiers admitted their fault and asked for forgiveness. But the residents are decided to elevate the issue to the Joint Monitoring Committee,” said Gabo.
But Col. Melfredo Meligrito, commander of the 57th IB, denied his men had committed harassment against the villagers.
“There was no report of the incident. I don’t think my men will enter a village without a reason,” said Meligrito in an interview over dxND.
He called on residents of Kabalantian to submit to him a copy of their complaints saying he wanted to have a dialogue with them to clarify things. (Malu Cadelina Manar/MindaNews)