MAGPET, North Cotabato – Barangay leaders of village in Magpet, North Cotabato said they planned to pass a resolution that would ask the government Armed Forces to spare their residents from counterinsurgency interrogations, saying that the mostly farmer residents have expressed fear for their lives while working in isolated farms.
The complaints also include fear over unannounced aerial bombings in their place.
Balite’s Barangay Captain Jerry Mabuti confided to Davao Today, that his colleagues in the barangay council were still discussing content and form of the resolution after some residents complained to them that they were subjected to warning and harassment from soldiers looking for New People’s Army guerrillas.
He said he would forward the resolution to the Association of Barangay Captains in the town for further discussion.
The village was among the areas visited by a national probe mission launched by human rights and other militant organizations this week in the aftermath of the Talaingod evacuation last month. A team from this mission went to North Cotabato to look into alleged civilian rights abuses in the course of the government counterinsurgency campaign.
The barangay leaders did not divulge the plan, though to the mission. But they presented some cases to the mission. These cases were mostly complaints against alleged harassment from members of the 57th Infantry Battalion, which conducted patrols in the Magpet villages.
The complaining residents said the patrols and alleged harassment happened after an aerial bombardment was conducted on March 30 this year.
Farmer Edgar Hantoc, said that he, his brother, and his farm worker were stopped by a section of soldiers while they were about to get their carabao and a motorcycle left a day after the bombings.
One soldier allegedly grabbed Hantoc’s bolo, ordered them to kneel down, pointed the bolo at his brother and warned “if he moved or if he talked, his tongue will be cut off”.
He said soldiers have accused him as one of the people helping the NPAs in staging an ambush against soldiers the previous day.
When he showed his identification that he was a former barangay kagawad, the soldiers told him that they knew that he was an ex-kagawad and at the same time an ex-NPA.
After an hour, the soldiers set them free but warned them they had only 30 minutes to get his motorcycle and animals. When they returned, Hantoc said they were photographed by the soldiers.
Hantoc said he went to a radio station to complain but the same military group allegedly threatened him again the following day that “we will meet again in your farm”.
His farm worker also refused to go the farm anymore after he was also accused as an NPA sniper. (davaotoday.com)