Armed men have killed two Lumads, ransacked a store, started fires, and knocked on houses, in the middle of military operations.
BY DEE AYROSO
Human rights group Karapatan-Caraga reported that some 1,783 residents from 16 hinterland communities have forcibly evacuated for fear of ongoing military operations in Surigao del Sur.
In its urgent alert, Karapatan Caraga said that in the morning of Oct. 27, up to 378 families from the bordering towns of Lianga, San Agustin and Tago “began their trek towards the barangay (village) center of Diatagon, Lianga.”
The evacuees arrived in the afternoon of the same day at the Diatagon village gym, where they are currently staying.
The most recent incident was on Oct. 27 in Kabulohan, Buhisan village, San Agustin when armed in plainclothes set the community school and a farm implement on fire after ransacking a store.
The human rights group reported that since early October, military operations in the area were started by soldiers of the 2nd Scout Ranger Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Battalion, 36th Infantry Battalion, 401st Brigade, and the Cafgu. The military is accompanied by the paramilitary group led by Calpit Egua, said Karapatan.
Karapatan-Caraga believes that the recent spate of military operations are but another attempt of the US-Aquino government to force the entry of large scale mining within the ancestral lands of the lumad people in the Andap Valley Complex.
The Andap Valley Complex spans the upland towns of San Miguel, San Agustin, Marihatag, Cagwait, Tago and Lianga in Surigao del Sur.
Seven community schools from the three towns were forced to close, affecting 569 students. Three other learning centers in the nearby village of Libas Sud in San Miguel was also closed down, affecting 306 students.
Karapatan-Caraga said that since Oct. 22, soldiers intensified their presence in the communities.
On Oct. 27, six armed men in plainclothes ransacked the cooperative store in Kabulohan, Buhisan village, San Agustin, emptying the store of its contents including rice and a container of kerosene. The men threatened the store caretaker Richard Tejero who was forced to open the door.
From the store, the men set fire to the community corn sheller, which was given by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Then they proceeded to the community school, where the men poured kerosene and lit the tarpaulin of the UNICEF which declared that “All schools are peace zones. Don’t use it as command post, detachment and supply depots. RA 7610 Protection of the Rights of Children.”
“They then poured kerosene on the walls of the school and set it on fire. The community members upon seeing their school burning shouted and ran towards the school to put out the fire,” Karapatan-Caraga said. At that point, the men opened fire which sent the residents, including pregnant teacher Josephine Trimidal and children, running for safety.
On Oct. 24, Henry Alameda, a leader of the Manobo group Malahutayong Pakigbisog Alang sa Sumusunod (Mapasu) was dragged out and shot outside his home in San Isidro village, Lianga. Soldiers were seen operating in the area before the killing. Another Lumad, Aldren Dumaguit, was also killed in nearby Proseridad, Agusan del Sur, while on Oct. 23, abaca farmers Jojo Tejera and Elde Martinez were disappeared in San Miguel.
Karapatan said that at 6 p.m. later that day, soldiers and paramilitary members went around the house of Genasque Enriquez in Simowao, Diatagon. Enriquez is the general secretary of Kasalo-Caraga who was recently arbitrarily arrested and detained.
On Oct. 26, soldiers went inside houses, and intimidated residents in Pamuknoan and Maluy-a in Diatagon village.
On the same day, at around 1 p.m., residents overheard soldiers of the 36th IB passing by Hayon, Libas Sud, San Miguel saying: “We chanced upon two men in the mountains and thought they were members of the NPA.”
Karapatan-Caraga insisted that the military is using the paramilitary group of Calpit Eguat to target the the Mapasu leaders “who have been consistent and firm in their refusal to allow coal mining within the Andap Valley Complex.” The 401st Brigade had reportedly denied links with the said paramilitary.
Karapatan also named Marcos Bocales, a “trusted member and follower of Calpit Egua, former leader of Task Force Gantangan-Bagani Force” as among those conducting the operations. Bocales reportedly has links with the Army’s 29th Infantry Battalion, said Karapatan.