Skirmishes trigger more evacuations in Surigao Sur town

MARIHATAG, Surigao del Sur (MindaNews / 2 Oct) – A fresh wave of fighting between Army soldiers and an unidentified armed group triggered a new round of evacuees in this town on Friday.

Marihatag Mayor Allan Pelenio told a Senate Committee on Justice public hearing in Tandag City that more than 200 Manobo families or 1,000 persons fled their homes in Barangay Mahaba, eight kilometers from the town center.

Pelenio said he sent two trucks to fetch the residents from three sitios from Barangay Mahaba and from the village’s central area.

“There is nothing left there right now except stray dogs and untended pigs,” Barangay Mahaba Kagawad Alejandro Sanchez said.

Sanchez said they fled their villages after a fresh wave of fighting erupted between soldiers and armed men believed to be New People’s Army rebels.

He said they could hear the fighting getting nearer to their houses so they decided to flee Thursday night.

Benny Canon, 64, however, said they saw members of the Bagani terror group led by Bobby Tejero, suspect in the Sept. 1 killing of a school director and two lumad leaders in Lianga, Surigao del Sur.

Canon said Tejero and the Bagani groups came after the soldiers arrived in their village on Thursday and demanded that the villagers identify NPA members among them.

“We have to flee because we do not want to become their victims,” he said.

Senator Teofisto Guingona said the Philippine National Police and the Army should arrest Bobby Tejero, his brother Loloy Abab Tejero and Garito Layno to restore the confidence of the lumads.

“The name of Bobby Tejero is already enough to trigger a mass evacuation. They should be arrested. This is step no. 1 to restore the confidence of the lumads,” Guingona said.

Police have filed murder charges, grave threats and arson against the suspects for the killing of Emerito Samarca, 54, executive director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agriculture and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV), a school for lumads.

The PNP and Army have formed Task Force Bangkaw (Spear) to immediately arrest the suspects. (Froilan Gallardo/MindaNews)