KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews/22 July) — Elements of the Army’s 57th Infantry Battalion recovered an improvised explosive device (IED) in Barangay Datu Celo, one of the remotest villages in Magpet, NorthCotabato at around 11 p.m., Saturday.
Lt. Nasrullah Sema of the civil military operations of the 57th IB said the recovery of the IED a few kilometers from their patrol base came after a 15-minute firefight between the troops of Lt. Bruno Hugo of the Alpha Company of the 57th IB and the New Peoples’ Army (NPA).
Sema said the rebels left the explosive when they were about to be cornered after the gunfight.
Lt. Hugo’s men recovered the IED, which weighed at least 15 kilos with 150 meters of detonating wire, blasting cap, and switch box with two nine-volt batteries.
Sema said the planting of the IED was part of the rebels’ reprisal after Hugo’s troops overran last Monday one of the biggest NPA camps in Magpet town.
Hugo described the camp has having several bunkers that could accommodate at least 300.
On July 15, the soldiers monitored the massing of NPA elements in Sitio Bantaan in Barangay Bagumbayan, Magpet, Sema said.
Sema added that on July 16, the Army, together with elements of the Special Action Forces of the Philippine National Police, launched full combat patrol operations in the area and after three hours of exchange of gunfire overran a rebel camp. They recovered several personal belongings and alleged “subversive” documents.
But some residents, however, cried foul and complained of human rights violations.
At the height of the fighting, at least 50 families, mostly Manobos, left their homes and sought refuge at the village center.
They returned home the next day, reports said.
Some villagers accused the soldiers of using children as guides during their operations.
A certain Andrew said his house in Sitio Salinsing, Barangay Amabel, also inMagpet town, was torched by patrolling soldiers after they suspected it to be a “safehouse” for rebels.
Col. Leopoldo Galon, head of the Civil Relations Group of the Eastern Mindanao Command, urged the victims to file complaints directly with the Commission on Human Rights.
“To prevent being accused of using these incidents as part of the rebels’ propaganda, the complaints must be filed at the CHR because this is the right agency. If you file that with other human rights groups, then it becomes propaganda,” Galon said. (Malu Cadelina-Manar/MindaNews)