Soldiers accused of mauling 3 children

Cousins Norhad Datukan, 14, Mamandok Edza, 10, Mohamidin Edza, 13, and Ebspangga Edza, 25, went to Lumopog around 3 p.m. to get their banca  when two soldiers came and accused them as members of Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s 105 Base Command under Ameril Umbra Kato.

Datukan told MindaNews that one of the military men slapped his face twice while his wrists were tied and his eyes blindfolded with packaging tape.

“Sabi nila kinukuha daw namin ang bangka ng mga MILF,” (They said we were getting the boat of the MILF), he said.

Mohamidin was reportedly blindfolded and tied in the wrists, too.

Mamandok kept on crying out loud while his cousins were forced to admit that they were MILF members. Around 6 p.m., his father, Maston Abton Edza, came over to check on his son and nephew and saw them near the riverbank. 

Mabuti na lang dumating ang tatay ko para sundan kami dahil matagal kaming hindi nakabalik,” (It was good that my father came because we were unable to return immediately) Mamandok said.

The soldiers, reportedly a composite of the 7th IB and 40th IB, took Ebspangga and eight other eight civilians who were constructing the Lumopog Elementary School.

He said the eight civilians were handcuffed, blindfolded, mauled and exposed to the rain for 30 minutes.

He said the military men held them for one night and released them 10 a.m. the next day.

Relatives brought Ebspangga to the Rural Health Unit here where he was found to have multiple abrasions on both wrists, soft tissue contusions on left shoulder and limitation of movement due to the incident. 

The victims were evacuees who sought refuge here but had returned to Duaminanga, a seven-minute ride by banca to Lumopog.

The four victims and their families fled back to the evacuation center in Datu Piang after the incident. They had only stayed in their place for two weeks.

Lt. Col. Dickson Hermoso told MindaNews he has "no idea about the alleged incident because Lumopog is in Midsayap and my men are deployed in Pigkawayan." The 4oth IB chief could not be reached for comment.

Meanwhile, 57 families from barangays Montay and Balong in Datu Piang fled once again to the town’s evacuation center in the wake of aerial bombardment and mortar shelling in Kabuntalan, a town in Maguindanao adjacent to their barangay. 

Barangay Captain Blaem Edza of barangay Balong said they returned home on November 9 last year.

He, however, said the military operation against the MILF rebels in the area forced them to seek help from Datu Piang Mayor Datu Samer Uy, Al-haj.  

He said the mayor immediately sent them five motorized banca which brought them to Mubarak mosque in Datu Piang.

Barangay Captain Edza said that while they were navigating the river the men removed their clothes and waved to the helicopters and fighter planes as a sign that they were civilians.

“Takot na takot kami na baka kami mapagkamalang rebelde tulad ng ibang insidente,” (We were so afraid of being mistaken as rebels like in other incidents) he said. 

He said the Reconnaissance Company of the Philippine Army arrived Sunday in Kabuntalan and started dropping bombs and firing artillery in the area.

He said there were less than 50 families left in Balong.                                            
Col. Jonathan Ponce, 6th Infantry Division spokesperson, told a radio station in Cotabato City they were launching a pursuit operation against the MILF group under Ameril Umbra Kato in some areas of Maguindanao and North Cotabato.

But MILF leader Ed Kabalu said there was no exchange of fire between the rebels and government troops in Kabuntalan and barangay Lomopog and Sambolawan in Midsayap. (Sittie Sundang/MindaNews contributor)