CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 14 September 2019

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Military bullets leave two more dead as others flee

DAVAO (SE): Some 200 indigenous people have flocked to Davao City in the southern Philippines, saying that they had been forced to flee their homes in Compostela when they were intimidated by the Armed Forces of The Philippine in the Mangayon village area at the end of November.

UCAN reported they said that government soldiers had occupied the community school and their homes, claiming that they were looking for Communist rebels.

“Their presence is a threat to us,” a 60-year-old farmer, who left the village with his wife and three children, explained.

“We are scared of the soldiers. They have been asking questions about the rebels,” the farmer, who asked not to be named, said.

The government views Mangayon as a stronghold of the New People’s Army, the armed-wing of the Communist Party of The Philippines.

The Compostela Farmers Association reported that its chairperson, Isabello Tindasan, popularly known as Tatay Bello, told a rally on November 23 that military forces had made a second assassination attempt against him and his family.

Tindasan’s son, Noel, a small-scale miner, was lucky to escape gunshots from unidentified men in the early afternoon of November 22 in Compostela town.

In a statement naming the 66th Infantry Battalion and the paramilitary group, Tribal Force, as being responsibility for the attack, the peasant alliance said that this is not the first time the army has targeted Tindasan, a staunch critic of rights abuses and large scale mining by Agusan Petroleum in their community.

Tindasan’s home had already been strafed by an army platoon in June, injuring his son.

He explained that his family decided not to stay in their house after the incident as it had been encircled by more than a dozen fully-armed men who expected him to return home at night.

Jimmy Saypan, the secretary-general of the Compostela Farmer’s Association, accused the soldiers of invading the town to try to scare the tribal people into dropping their opposition to a mining project in the area.

UCAN reported that The Save Our Schools Network, an alliance of organisations providing education to children in tribal communities, reported that some 30 fully-armed soldiers were occupying people’s homes in the village.

The soldiers also occupied the Salugpungan Learning Centre, a tribal community school supported by the Catholic Rural Missionaries of The Philippines.

Cristina Palabay, the secretary-general of Karapatan, said there is an urgent need to provide the displaced people with aid.

“We are appealing for any assistance for the refugees who are mostly the elderly and children,” Palabay said.

The exodus from Compostela follows a series of tribal community displacements in Mindanao.

On September 1, some 4,000 people fled their homes in Surigao del Sur province after the execution of two tribal leaders and the director of a school.

In July, some 700 tribal people also fled their homes in Davao del Norte and Bukidnon provinces to seek shelter in Davao City after government troops conducted anti-insurgency operations within their communities and strafed the area from the air.

Murder and executions by the military and its subsidiary forces is common. On September 15 at 7.00am, 30-year-old Obet Pabiana, from the Banwaon people, was gunned down while crossing a trail in Sitio Balaudo in Malaybalay City, Bukidnon.

Obet took a bullet to the chest and another to the right of his abdomen.

The Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission reported that he then tried to run back towards his five companions, but fell.

Before he died, however, Obet identified his murderers as Mankolobi Bocalas and Manlumakad Bocalas, both of whom are believed to belong to the Dela Mance paramilitary group, which is directly connected with the military.

On that same day at 2.00pm, 15-year-old Olaking Olinan was shot twice near the same spot. His brother heard the shots and found Olinan’s lifeless body in a pool of blood.

Local community leaders believe that the same two identified by Obet are responsible, as they found two sets of footprints traversing the land from the site of the first murder to the second.

 

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