More ‘bakwits’ seek refuge in Butuan

BUTUAN CITY (MindaNews/27 March) – More evacuees from hinterland areas of Agusan del Norte arrived here last Monday as they left their homes to avoid being hit in the crossfire as the military operated against communist rebels.

Around 500 “bakwits” from Cabadbaran City and the municipality of Kitcharao are now occupying a small covered court in Barangay Imadejas here since Friday.

The evacuees, of the Mamanwa and Manobo tribes, started arriving here last week and staged a protest rally at the provincial capitol to demand complete cessation of military operations in their respective communities. They also initially set up camp at the capitol grounds.

“We want to go back to our homes. But with the ongoing military operation in our community we fear not only for our lives but for our children as well,” said Gingging Anlagan, wife of the Mamanwa tribe leader in Sitio Zapanta, Barangay Bangayan in Kitcharao.

Gingging’s husband Datu Maribojoc, also known as Lando Anlagan, together with several evacuees, traveled to nearby Cabadbaran to lobby at the office of Rep. Angel Amante for government intervention in the ongoing alleged militarization.

Avelino Javier, spokesperson of the Bagong Alysansang Makabayan in the Caraga Region, explained that the demand for military pullout stemmed from the supposed indiscriminate bombing both from the air and artillery on the ground.

“We are not here to support or defend the armed groups in the mountains. We are here to defend the families, especially the children who had been traumatized by the explosions a few kilometers from their homes,” said Javier.

Marites Trilles, of the church-based Community Based Heath Program, confirmed symptoms of trauma showing up in some of the children.

According to villagers in Barangay Bangayan in Kitcharao, helicopters have been bombing the area since last month.

Last Thursday, the evacuees, after negotiations with provincial authorities, were forced to leave the provincial capitol grounds and transferred to the nearby covered court of Barangay Imadejas.

In a phone interview last Friday, Maj. Eugenio Julio Osias IV, spokesperson of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division based in Camp
Evangelista in Cagayan de Oro City, said that the ongoing military operation in Agusan del Norte was needed to weed out the criminals and other armed threats.

“We completely understand the concerns of the evacuees and we are hoping to end the conflict for them to return to there homes soon. We need the cooperation of the people and the different sectors involved,” he said. (Erwin Mascariñas / MindaNews)