Davao village chief cries ‘military harassment’

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/25 March) – A barangay official accused Tuesday members of the 69th Infantry Battalion of committing acts of harassment against civilians in his area.

Lumiad Barangay Chair Celso Bughao told the city council that members of the 69th IB were asking residents of the barangay to sign a form admitting they were sympathizers or members of the New People’s Army (NPA).

Bughao showed reporters a certification form supposedly by the military which read: “This is to certify that [name of resident] single/married and a resident of …, Paquibato District, Davao City voluntarily submits him/herself to … Squad Leader, Charlie (Fighters) Company, 69th Infantry (COUGAR) Battalion, 7th Infantry (Kaugnay) Division, PA … at PDOP Team.”

PDOP stands for the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) Peace and Development Outreach Program.

The form also “certifies” that the resident who signed it had undergone an interview with the unit, was “treated well” and “was not force [sic] to answer any questions against his/her will nor any physical body contact made.”

Bughao, meanwhile, lamented that some of the residents did not know what they were signing.

“The forms were written in English, and some of them did not understand the content of the paper,” he said.

The barangay leader said at least 100 residents from three puroks in his barangay have been made to sign the paper.

He said he had talked to leaders of the 69th IB about it.

“They should have coordinated with the barangay leaders instead. If they had suspected my residents to be members of the NPA, they should have asked us,” Bughao said.

He added he had also reported the incident to the City Mayor’s Office through City Administrator Melchor Quitain.

In a phone interview, 10th Infantry Division spokesperson Captain Ernest Carolina said the military does not use coercion to make people admit they are NPA members.

But Carolina said that to play safe, units from the 69th IB had to ask some surrenderees to sign a waiver that they were not hurt during a “needs assessment survey” interview conducted by the military.

Carolina, however, denied that the document Bughao presented to the media was the one used for the residents.

“I received information from the unit that the document Bughao showed was for an actual NPA surrenderee,” Carolina said.

During the summit on the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law held at Ateneo de Davao University Finster Hall, AFP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Domingo Tutaan said the AFP’s directive was to base all operations on respect for human rights.

Carolina assured the public that the processes they used in the field were “constantly in review.” (MindaNews)