MILITARY FORCES set fire to a house and took four children with them as they conducted military operations in Guihulngan City, Negros Occidental. They also reportedly ordered the evacuation of over 50 families from their communities.
These are some of the abuses that human rights group Karapatan-Negros documented during its two-day fact-finding mission in Sitio Agpapataw, Bgy. Binubuhan. According to the fact-finding report, the military operations started a day after an armed encounter between the 79th IB PA and the New People’s Army (NPA) on June 30. The military launched its operations against the communities in alleged retaliation.
The house of Aurilla Cantela of Sitio Agpapataw was razed after soldiers set it on fire, the report stated. The troops also took four children and kept them for four days while roving the communities. The minors were17-year-old Elizabeth Garde and her siblings 11-year-old Jeramae, 9-year-old Anamae, and 8-year-old Angelo. The children were brought home on July 4 after their family sought the help of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and barangay officials.
The fact-finding team interviewed more than 300 residents who shared other abuses by the military. Some residents were reportedly forced to admit that they were supporters of the NPA and were members of its “Yunit Milisya”.
Evacuees also narrated how an 11-year old girl was traumatized after soldiers barged into their house on July 1. According to the girl’s father, Babino Gemudo, the troops pointed their firearms at her daughter’s face. She was not able to speak for two days because of the incident.
According to the residents, the soldiers fired indiscriminately at one of the houses. They also stayed inside the evacuees’ homes and used these as camps. Other violations by the military included slaughtering of livestock and stealing household items such as bolos, knives, and water hoses.
Karapatan reported that the 79th IB conducted military operations in Sitios Laos, Agpapataw, Batong Buang, Kalubasa, Kapudlusan, Sumel, and Titip.
According to Clarizza Dagatan, secretary-general of Karapatan Negros, the soldiers were still in the Sitio Agpapataw when Karapatan, together with peasant group Kaugmaon-KMP, conducted its fact-finding mission on July 8.
Dagatan said evacuees could not return to their houses because of the military’s continued presence. Children have also stopped going to school.
“After the June 30 incident, the military operations did not stop, even until now,” she said.
“The violations that the fact-finding team documented are a clear attack on civilians. We demand the immediate pull-out of the military from their villages,” said Dagatan.
Report by RicMae Arellano