ZAMBOANGA CITY: Thousands of villagers were trapped in at least three towns in the province of Compostela Valley where security forces launched a massive assault on communist rebels, human rights group Karapatan said on Wednesday.
Karapatan added that at least 1,000 families were affected by military operations that began last week and three farmers had been killed by soldiers in Monkayo town on suspicion they were members of the New People’s Army (NPA).
Troops from the Army’s 69th and 71st Infantry Battalions imposed food blockade on the towns of Maragusan and New Bataan, including Monkayo, and reportedly harassed villagers.
Karapatan said Philippine Air Force planes also bombed several times the village of Parasanon in Maragusan but it was unknown if there were civilian casualties as soldiers prevented human rights workers to inspect the area.
Jay Apiag, a spokesman for Karapatan, said farmers and civilians have been accused by the military as supporters of the NPA or members of the communist group and targeted by soldiers in their desperate hunt for insurgents.
He added that they will conduct fact-finding missions in Compostela Valley and also appealed to President Rodrigo Duterte to order an investigation of the military campaign that has affected civilians in the province.
“We urge President Duterte to investigate and hear the sides of the civilian farmers and not the lies and spins of the military,” Apiag said, adding that the “President must rein in his army who are spoilers of peace and violators of human rights.”
There was no immediate statement from the military on the allegations.