Karapatan, military trade barbs

Davao Oriental evacuees back in their farms

By ROGER M. BALANZA

Davao Oriental Governor Corazon Malanyaon said evacuees from four towns evading crossfire from military and rebel clashes have returned home.

But the military and human rights groups here continue to trade barbs over the evacuation.

The military said the villagers from distant barangays in the towns of Baganga, Cateel and Boston fled their homes on instigation of the New Peoples Army, human rights groups and tribal leaders. The human rights group Karapatan said the evacuation was a “man-made calamity” triggered by military operations. Karapatan demanded the immediate pull out of the troops to spare civilians.

In the provincial capital City of Mati yesterday, Karapatan led about 500 protesters in a march to the Provincial Capitol to denounce the military operations.

Police chief senior inspector Candizo Suralta and a police team met the protesters led by Karapatan Southern Mindanao secretary general Kelly Delgado to demand if they have a permit, but allowed them to reach capitol grounds.

“Why demand a permit from us who want to express grievances against the military operations? Troopers have no permit to conduct massive operations in our villages, “ said a 50-year old protester from Cateel. Delgado said the march was a legitimate exercise.

Malanyaon confirmed the evacuation on the first day of military operations against the NPA Front Committees 15 and 18, which engaged troopers in fierce battles last week in Boston town. They are now back in their villages, said Malanyaon, who proposed continuing dialogs with local rebels.

The governor said the provincial government provided food aids to the evacuees that Karapatan claimed numbered 330 families in Baganga and 80 in Cateel.

Major Gen. Ernesto Boac, commanding general of the Army 10th Infantry Division, said five NPA rebels were killed in the clashes. “The operation is ongoing,” said Major Rodrigo Sosmena, spokesman of the Eastern Mindanao Command (EastMinCom) in Davao City.

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