ZAMBOANGA CITY: Tribal leaders expressed grave concern over the continued encampment of government troops in civilian areas in Mindanao that they said exposed villagers to dangers in case of rebel attacks.
Soldiers have put up camps in at least a dozen communities in Talaingod town in Davao del Norte province and are being supported by anti-communist militia groups.
A fact-finding mission by human rights groups confirmed the reported presence of security forces in civilian areas.
Tribal leaders Datu Isan Maas and Datu Sumpo Taosan were forced to abandon their farms for fear that soldiers would harass or force them to support the military forces in those areas.
Villagers and tribal leaders who opposed the presence of troops were tagged by the military as communist rebels or supporters, raising fears that they may be arrested and tortured by troops or militias into admitting they are members of the NPA, which has been waging a separatist war the past decades.
One militia group called Alamara was reported to have harassed many civilians and tribal leaders, forcing them to join the armed group.
The group Kusog sa Katawhan Lumad sa Mindanao led by Dulphing Ogan expressed alarm over the human rights violations by the military against civilians in the provinces of Davao del Norte, Compostela Valley and Agusan del Sur. The group led a fact-finding mission in those areas and interviewed civilians and tribal leaders in the provinces.