Tribesmen say military using civilians as shields vs rebels

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ZAMBOANGA CITY: Tribesmen and various human rights groups in Davao Oriental on Wednesday threatened to leave their communities as they accused the military of using civilians as shield against rebels in its anti-insurgency operation.

They said military encampments in civilian communities, especially near schools, churches and other public buildings, make them vulnerable from attacks during encounters between government troops and rebel forces.

Karadyawan, a local indigenous people’s organization in Kapalong town, also accused the military of killing a taxi driver Wilfred Estrebillo and other human rights violations alleged- ly perpetrated by members of the 60th and 68th Infantry Battalion.

Lito Sampag, a spokesman for the Karadyawan, said: “The military is using our communities as shields; they are occupying our churches and schools, accusing and forcing some of us to surrender, and forcing our children to act as their guides in their pursuit of New People’s Army rebels.”


He said troops are currently encamped at Sitio Kapatagan, Taongatok, Upper Tagasan, Lower Ta–gasan, Mangkay, Maguimon, Aminipat and Ngan all in the village of Gupitan, and other areas nearby.

“Their presence brings threats and violations to the rights of the villagers. Their targets and vivid victims are us,” Sampag said. “If the military will not pull out from civilian areas, we shall be forced to leave our villages and protest this continued militarization.”

Human rights group Karapatan said it is documenting all reported cases of human rights violations in the areas identified by Karadyawan so that appropriate charges or legal actions can be filed against the perpetrators.

“But we will not rely on the filing of legal cases alone; the courageous protest of the people is more effective based on our experience because many of our government instrumentalities and offices are futile especially in addressing the complaints of poor people like the farmers and lumads.” Said Hanimay Suazo, Karapatan’s Secretary-General in Southern Mindanao.

Meanwhile, the military denied all the allegations and accused the NPA of human rights violations in the province.

Lt. Col. Norman Zuniega, commander of the 10th Civil-Military Operation Battalion, said the rebel group was behind numerous cases of killings, intimidation, coercion, extortion and recruitment of young villagers, including children to fight the government.

He said even local government agencies and officials have reported serious difficulties in the delivery of basic services and infrastructure projects in the villages due to the presence of rebels.

He said tribesmen were also being intimidated and coerced by human rights groups, including Karapatan, Barug Katawhan and other front organizations of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

“Residents reported the utilization of school classrooms by the NPA for anti-government propaganda and revolutionary activities, disrupting the schedule of students and causing fear among them,” Zuniega said.

“Also, it was found that indigenous peoples are the most exploited and deceived, purposely isolated by the NPA from any service or help from the governments as are the main targets of recruitment to become NPA fighters. The rebels do not have any regard for the welfare of indigenous tribes and their customary laws and they brainwashed and arm them and teach them violence,” he added.

Zuniega said the soldiers are continuing their peace and development outreach program in the province and are working closely with local governments in an effort to address the growing threats of the NPA.

“The 10th Infantry Division is mandated to secure the welfare of the people and we cannot allow this armed group to continue its exploitation of this area and its residents. We will continue to pursue this criminal group involved in extortion, exploitation of minors, deception, murder and the use of banned explosives. Regardless of whatever setbacks and unfounded accusations by groups with malicious intentions, the 10th Infantry Division will continue pursuing the peace and development that the citizens of the far-flung areas have long aspired for,” said Zuniega.

“We assure the people that we will continue to work with the local government and its agencies to address the people’s concerns, and to help the people in the area live normally and freely, without the constant psychological fear caused by the NPA,” he said.

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2 Comments

  1. rosendo bagtas on

    ang ‘sword and shield’ doctrine, kung saan ang NPA ang ‘sword’ at NDF – kabilang ang Karapatan, Barug Katawhan at ibat-iabng gropo ng mga komunista sa tinaguriang ‘white area’ ang siyang ‘shield’ ay mabisang armas laban sa pamahalaan. kung ang NPA ay mayroong baril, ang NDF naman ang mabisa sa kanilang propaganda laban sa pamahalaan. this is what is happening now in Davao Oriental. Definitely, Subijano’s above reaction best exemplifies this as in all honesty, he is among the principal actors in the more than 4 decades old anti-government propaganda slur waged by the CPP-NPA-NDF against government. LIES, DISTORTION OF THE TRUTH AND FACTS, and MANIPULATION/EXPLOITATION of our less privileged brother and sister Filipinos are the hall mark of their propaganda campaign to poison the minds of Filipinos and gain sympathy among the different countries of the world. Millions of real freedom and peace loving Filipinos already have seen through this mirage of communist lies as shown in the more aggressive and viciousness shown by the armed NPAs against hapless and innocent Filipinos while getting able support from the anti-government propaganda efforts of their front ortganizations. Hindi tulog ang taumbayan sa lokohan ang kasinungalingan ng mga komunsitasnng ito.

  2. “tribesmen were also being intimidated and coerced by human rights groups, including Karapatan, Barug Katawhan and other front organizations of the Communist Party of the Philippines” – Lt. Col. Norman Zuniega, commander of the 10th Civil-Military Operation Battalion.

    How does Karapatan intimidate and coerce the IPs? Does Karapatan have guns and point them at the IPs? This assertion is very very stupid made by a very stupid man who probably has run out of things to say. He will say anything to justify human rights violations by the military.

    The military build their camps near civilian populations because they know the NPA will not attack them in these areas. This is what you call cowardice. Why? Well, when you hide behind women and children and old people so that your enemy will not fire at you what else can you call it?

    The great majority of military men enlisted because they want to earn a living and have a steady income. They did not join the military because of ideology. The AFP exists only to protect the interests of US imperialism in the country. Nothing more !!! So why would any military man would want to fight and die for that? And the best way to keep alive is to hide behind civilians in a battlefield. This is what Lt. Col. Norman Zuniega cannot openly admit but he knows to be true.