Malaybalay evacuees afraid to go home

Leo Villahermosa, who led a five-member relief distribution team from the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office, said the evacuees feared clashes might erupt anew in the barangay.

He referred to the 57 families from the village’s Purok 6 and 7, where the rebels withdrew after the attack.

Assurances from the Zamboanguita barangay council that it was already safe to return home failed to assuage the fears of the evacuees.

Villahermosa said barangay councilor Aniceto Hansel told him the situation in Zamboanguita was back to normal and that the evacuees had returned home and just came back for the distribution of relief assistance from the provincial government.

Rey Timbal, a member of the team, said they saw some evacuees still cooking and staying in the barangay hall.

He told MindaNews they were dispatched to distribute three-day food supplies to 57 families, as requested by the city social welfare office.

Close to 120 families met the team at the village.

Timbal said some of the evacuees told them they were afraid to return home, as of Saturday.

Col. Cresente Maligmat, chief of the 23rd Infantry Battalion, last week said the evacuees could return home on April 2.

On April 2, the city social welfare office reported that 46 families or 207 persons fled their homes when the NPA attacked the Zamboanguita Cafgu patrol base.

Timbal said members of the barangay council requested that they be the ones to distribute the goods to the residents. He said they turned over 16 sacks of rice, eight boxes of canned sardines, and 11 boxes of noodles.

He said there was no military activity in the village last Saturday but that some of the evacuees, especially those from Purok 6 and 7 were afraid of going home.

Upland bus and jeepney lines have resumed regular trips to the Upper Pulangui, an area in the city where Zamboanguita and seven other villages are located and which shares boundary with Agusan del Sur. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)