April 2, 2011
Brgy. SAN ISIDRO, MARIHATAG, Surigao del Sur — 110 families with about 600 men, women and children from hinterland communities have reportedly fled their homes in Brgy. San Isidro since March 31, 2011 as elements of the 29th IBPA (Infantry Battallion, Philippine Army) intensified their combat operations against the New People’s Army in the forest areas around their homes.
Combat operations were launched after an encounter between the AFP and the NPA occurred in the early morning hours on March 31. Intermittent aerial bombing by two helicopters and shelling from canons believed to be positioned at the military detachment in Brgy. Buhisan, San Agustin were done in the forest areas around civilian communities and their farms as part of the operations.
The indiscriminate firing put civilians’ lives in danger. This caused panicked evacuation among residents of Sitios Luknodon, Boringon and Palonpon in Brgy. Mahaba, Marihatag who lived near the areas of detonation. Leaving behind all property, including food, clothing, farm produce, tools and animals, they sought refuge in homes of friends and relatives in Brgy. San Isidro, about 3 kilometers from their communities.
At present, the evacuees are having difficulty finding enough food for their families as soldiers have overrun their communities and they are still unable to go back to their homes to retrieve their property.
Karapatan-Caraga Secretary General Dr. Naty Castro says, “The conduct of these active combat operations clearly shows that the AFP regards civilians as collateral damage in its anti-insurgency campaign. Oplan Bayanihan reveals itself as no different from Arroyo’s Oplan Bantay Laya after all.”
Circumstances remain uncertain as to when the evacuees may go home. Concerns have been expressed for the houses, farm animals, produce and other valuables that have been left behind. Menwhile, they are hoping that the military and the local LGU may allow them to safely return to their communities to save what they can from their property.#