“It is evident that government forces had put civilians’ lives at risk and have also hampered the children’s right to education. Therefore, it is just to call for the military to immediately stop their operations in the said communities, and to call for the government to disband the paramilitary groups in the area, particularly the Bagani Forces.” — Rural Missionaries of the Philippines – Northern Mindanao
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA — A paramilitary group has displaced 118 families belonging to the Manobo tribe in Lydia village, La Paz in Agusan del Sur, according to the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines – Northern Mindanao.
“It is very disheartening that the military and the government will allow the existence of this paramilitary group as their helping-hand in their counterinsurgency program despite the atrocities that it had inflicted against the people in the area,” the RMP-NMR’s statement read.
Soldiers belonging to the 26th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army, along with paramilitary group Bagani Forces, first conducted a military operation on Aug. 9 in Mintake-i in Lydia village. Both groups, according to RMP – NMR threatened residents that they would massacre the entire community.
Such threats, the group added, forced residents and teachers of the Mintake-i Learning Center, to leave their homes.
On Aug. 12, a group of five Lumads escaped barely unscathed when armed men whom they identified as soldiers fired at them while they were foraging for food in the forest.
As of Aug. 29, 118 families from six communities namely Manguicaw, Liyo, Liwangwangan, Libon, Minduyog and Mintake-i are seeking refuge at the village proper of Lydia. RMP-NMR said that since the military began their operations, families could not go back to their home and to their fields.
The 118 families comprise about 562 individuals, 270 of whom are children. RMP – NMR noted that the refugees are without food and had brought only few clothes.
Disruption of classes
The military operation, according to the RMP-NMR, has also disrupted the classes in the three learning centers they established in Lydia village, affecting 75 students.
Classes in Mintake-i learning center have already stopped since residents were forced to flee the area on Aug. 9. Other schools such as the Libon Learning Center and Liwangwangan Learning Center have also stopped their classes since Aug. 16 and 18, respectively.
The military has long branded these schools as “schools of the rebels,” making it an eligible target for military operations, the religious group said.
“With this situation, it is evident that government forces had put civilians’ lives at risk and have also hampered the children’s right to education. Therefore, it is just to call for the military to immediately stop their operations in the said communities, and to call for the government to disband the paramilitary groups in the area, particularly the Bagani Forces as this group is sowing terror – threatening the residents and the RMP-NMR teachers,” the RMP – NMR said.