KIDAPAWAN CITY (Oct 7) – A human rights group has tagged the Army’s 38th Infantry Battalion for the alleged illegal search, grave threats and destruction of property in Barangay Midpapan-Dos in Pigcawayan, North Cotabato.
This was the result of the fact-finding mission of at least 13 church and people’s organizations headed by the PALMA Interfatith Alliance and Solidarity for the Advancement of People’s Rights (PIFASAPR).
PALMA is the acronym for Pigcawayan, Aleosan, Libungan, Midsayap, and Alamada – all towns under the first district in North Cotabato.
Allan Mostrales, spokesperson for the group, said the inconsistencies in the pronouncements of the local officials of Pigcawayan town and Col. Julito Ando, spokesperson for the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, on what happened late last month in Midpapan-Dos prompted their group to conduct its own fact-finding, documentation, and investigation.
On September 26, witnesses saw two Kennedy-type military vehicles parked near the house of village chair Pacifico Fahit of Barangay Midpapan-Dos in Pigcawayan.
The suspects were in full battle gear, according to the witnesses.
Mostrales said the suspects raided three houses in Purok Anonang, Santol, and Mangga in Barangay Midpapan-Dos, threatened the villagers, and destroyed some of the property of the victims.
“Only the military uses such vehicles,” said Mostrales.
Col. Ando told MindaNews in a telephone interview Saturday afternoon that there has been no report of military operations in the area on that particular date. He said he spoke with the chief of the Army’s 603rd Infantry Brigade, under whose command the 38th IB belongs, and was told there was no such military operation.
He said intelligence agents, however, monitored the movement of 12 male and 13 female guerrillas of the New People’s Army (NPA) who entered Midpaapan-Dos from Arakan and Kidapawan City.
He said the village is part of the “expansion area” of the NPA’s Front 53. He said armed men wearing military uniforms may not necessarily be Army soldiers.
The Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC), a Davao City-based institution that conducted a psychosocial intervention in the area, said the children were traumatized by the harassment.
“The incident traumatized the children aged 7 to 12 years old. On the report given to us by the facilitators from CRC, one of the children during the psychosocial release activity was shaking and crying when she narrated that his uncle was gun-poked by the military. The other children expressed sleeplessness since the incident.”
The group said they would submit copies of the results of their fact-finding mission to the Commission on Human Rights and international human rights groups so that appropriate sanctions would be imposed against the perpetrators. (Malu Cadelina-Manar/MindaNews)