“Is this how the 402nd Brigade ‘manages conflict’ in Surigao Sur?”
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – Days after the military declared Surigao del Sur a “conflict-manageable area” and “ready for further development,” at least 33 families or 172 Lumad forcibly evacuated last March 13, after soldiers shot and wounded a Manobo farmer in San Miguel town.
Human rights group Karapatan-Surigao Sur said in a text message to Bulatlat that the forcible evacuation in purok 6, sitio Barobuan, Carromata village, San Miguel was triggered when soldiers of the 2nd Special Forces shot farmer Benjie dela Pena while he was tending to his farm on March 11.
Dela Pena, 25, married with three children, sustained a wound on his left hip and is currently recuperating in a hospital.
The 2nd Special Forces are based in SNAS in Carromata village, and were conducting a military operation in Barobuan.
Karapatan said that the military has insisted that the victim is a member of the New People’s Army.
“Is this how the 402nd Brigade ‘manages conflict’ in Surigao Sur?” the human rights group said.
On March 6, the East Mindanao Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines signed a memorandum of agreement with the local government of Surigao del Sur, and declared the province “conflict-manageable.”
In a Sunstar report, they described the memorandum of agreement as a “result of the rigid efforts of the military, police, local government units, and stakeholders” to address insurgency in their province. But human rights groups have long assailed that such counterinsurgency efforts mainly targeted civilians.
As of this writing, evacuees are staying at the village center of Carromata.
The 33 families who evacuated from their community add up to the growing number of Lumad who are currently in sanctuaries in several parts of Mindanao due to intense militarization in their communities. In Tandag City alone, at least 2,000 Lumad continue to seek refuge at the evacuation center at the provincial sports complex. It has been six months since they left their communities on Sept. 1, following the brutal killing of two tribal leaders and an educator by members of a paramilitary group in Lianga.