Karapatan: aerial bombs dropped vs rebels; military: so?

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 12 May) – Human rights group Karapatan-Southern Mindanao Region complained of several human rights violations against the military and accused them of using aerial bombs in an encounter with communist rebels at Sitio Cabagtukan, Barangay Dominga in Calinan district here Wednesday.

In a statement released Thursday, Karapatan-SMR secretary general Sheena Duazo accused the military of dropping bombs in the community “that resulted in too much fear to the residents.”

But Capt. Alenel Valles, Civil Military Operations Officer of the 3rd Infantry Battalion, said there was nothing wrong with dropping aerial bombs as it was for “close air support” provided by the Philippine Air Force while combating communist rebels. He stressed, though, that they made sure the area was clear of residents before the bombs were dropped.

Aside from aerial bombing, Duazo said the military used illegal search, threat, harassment, intimidation, physical assault, frustrated killing as among the violations committed by the government forces.

She said the military illegally searched the houses of the residents, including a certain Lascuña from Sitio Kibaton who was interrogated and later mauled with his face “plunked on a mud.”

Duazo claimed the barangay is now heavily militarized.

She added that on May 5, the military opened fire at a certain Joe Dagahuya but the latter managed to escape and now hiding for his safety.

The following day, Duazo said an encounter transpired between the New People’s Army (NPA) and elements of the 3IB in Barangay Dominga, Calinan District. She said the encounter forced Kagawad Dennis Epal and other residents of Sitio Cabagtukan to flee their homes and to transfer to the barangay proper for their safety.

“While they were on their way they were barred, and Kagawad Dennis Epal was interrogated by the military and accused of being member of the NPA. He asserted that he is not a member of NPA but a civilian, but the military did not believe him and threatened him that they will take away all his nails. The residents were prevented to go out from their barangay,” she said.

But Valles dismissed allegations of human rights violations committed by government forces, saying all these were still “unconfirmed” since no reports have reached them yet.

He said it is all “propaganda” made by the militants.

The skirmishes that started since May 6 displaced 86 families but some of them have returned home because no more gunfights erupted since Thursday, Valles said.

He said the military is coordinating with the City Social Services Development Office (CSSDO) to provide relief goods to families who have holed up at the barangay hall of Barangay Dominga.

The military, in a press statement released Thursday, said one soldier died while nine other were wounded in the gunfight and an undetermined numbers of casualties from the rebel side.

The military claimed having recovered two bodies of suspected NPA members.

The wounded soldiers were reportedly brought to the Panacan Naval Station Hospital for proper treatment and medical attention.

The statement said the military conducted a house-to-house search operation to capture the possible wounded members of the NPA and to clear the area.

The military and the police have reportedly conducted joint pursuit operations against the rebels. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)