‘Human rights violations’ not reason for transfer, says Army officer

BAD-AS, Placer, Surigao del Norte (MindaNews/22 July) – Relieved 30th Infantry Battalion commander Lt. Col. Erwin Rommel P. Lamzon said his transfer had nothing to do with allegations of human rights violations committed during his watch.

The military official said the change of command was ordered by the higher-ups of the 4th Infantry Division, and that as a “loyal soldier, I can do nothing but follow.”

Relieved 30th Infantry Battalion commander Lt. Col. Erwin Rommel P. Lamzon. Mindanews File Photo by Keith BacongcoEarly last month, militant groups called for investigation into alleged human rights violations in the wake of skirmishes between government troops and communist rebels in Zapanta Valley, Kitcharao, Agusan del Norte. The fighting resulted to a massive forced evacuation of indigenous peoples in the area.

Bayan Muna provincial coordinator Edgar Canda had earlier said that progressive groups were mulling to file a class suit against the military.

The military fired mortar rounds near the populated community to flush out the rebels who had gone into hiding there after conducting attacks in Surigao City and Surigao del Norte, Lamzon said.

Human rights lawyer Jose V. Begil Jr., who is also a Surigao City councilor, had earlier said that several complaints from the affected area have claimed human rights violations by the military.

Lamzon said these allegations have remained to be proven, describing them as baseless. Until his last day in the 30IB camp here in Bad-as, he said he had yet to receive a single complaint.

He said he was willing to answer any charges if there is any.

Lamzon was replaced by Lt. Col Vincent B. Iringan at the change of command ceremony at 30IB camp.

Lamzon will be reassigned to the 23IB in Barangay Patag, Cagayan de Oro City.

Meanwhile, Alliance for Nationalism and Democracy (ANAD) Rep. Jun Alcover has called on Commission on Human Rights chair Etta Rosales to ferret out the truth and impose appropriate sanctions on those responsible in the forced evacuation of the indigenous people in Zapanta Valley. (Roel N. Catoto / MindaNews)