SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews/08 August) — Some Lumads from villages in Loreto town in Agusan del Sur who were displaced by encounters last week between the military and New People’s Army (NPA) rebels went straight to Davao City instead of going home as agreed during a meeting with a provincial official.
Vice Gov. Santiago Cane Jr., who chairs the Provincial Crisis Management Committee said in a phone interview he was surprised why the Lumads opted to stay in Davao City.
Cane said that during the final meeting with the evacuees on Monday night (August 5), the latter had agreed to return to their villages.
He said the provincial government even provided vehicles for their return to Barangay Kauswagan.
“It’s unfortunate, we were taken for a ride by Karapatan and Gabriela,” he said.
The vice governor said Lumads from five barangays in Loreto fled after firefights between the military and communist rebels erupted in their communities last week.
He said 174 individuals have sought refuge at the Agusan del Sur Provincial Capitol covered court in Barangay Patin-ay, Prosperidad town since last Friday.
“We’ve provided them with shelter including amenities like electricity, water, food and medicines and doctors,” he said.
Cane said a dialogue with evacuees, NGOs, local government officials, government line agencies, the military and even the rebels was scheduled on Thursday in Kauswagan.
“This dialogue hopes to attain lasting peace in these communities,” he said.
Tala Macasieb, regional secretariat of Caraga Watch, an NGO based in Butuan City told MindaNews that at least 1,200 individuals had fled their homes because of the tension that gripped their villages.
“They were afraid to get caught in the crossfire,” Macasieb said.
Carlos Trangia, spokesperson of Barug Katawhan said the encounters have affected people from Barangays San Mariano, Sta. Teresa, Sabud, Sto. Nino and Kauswagan since Saturday.
Trainga said at least 900 individuals sought refuge in Kauswagan proper while 298 others sought refuge at the Capitol covered court.
He said the group that went to Patin-ay last Friday asked the provincial government to facilitate the pullout of the military from their war-torn communities.
“Children are no longer attending classes and the farmers are scared to go to their farmlands,” he said, adding the recent hostilities have turned the communities into “no man’s lands”.
Hinamay Suazo, secretary general of Karapatan-Southern Mindanao Region said the people who sought refuge in Patin-ay have asked the provincial government to facilitate the military pullout in these communities.
Suazo told MindaNews on Wednesday via text message that the evacuees included women and children.
“Nag decide na ang mga tao nga dili na mag uli kay naa paman presence sa military didto,” (The evacuees had decided not to return home because of the presence of the military) she said. (Roel N. Catoto/MindaNews)