One of the angles the residents asked the authorities to look into was the drinking-spree that took place inside the detachment from the afternoon until the evening of September 1. Nevertheless, the presence of the detachment in the center of the village and lying near a civilian facility was criticized by the residents of Fatima.
By ALEX D. LOPEZ
PAQUIBATO DISTRICT, Davao City, Philippines – While the military has already accused the New People’s Army (NPA) of being responsible for Saturday’s grenade blast that wounded more than 40 residents of Barangay Fatima in Paquibato District, some residents here urged the authorities to dig deeper into the incident to uncover the identities of the real perpetrators.
Residents who asked not to be identified told davatoday.com and other media entities who visited the area on September 5 that there were important angles the police and military did not pursue that might shed light to the incident.
It can be recalled that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), through Major Jacob Obligado, the Civil-Military Operation commander of the 10th Infantry Division accused the NPA of being responsible of the grenade attack basing on the similarity or pattern that the military have observed in previous NPA attacks in the region.
Further, the AFP claimed that there were threats from the NPAs targeting the firearms of the soldiers in the said detachment.
One of the angles the residents asked the authorities to look into was the drinking-spree that took place inside the detachment from the afternoon until the evening of September 1.
“Nag-inom ang mga sundalo. Nag-litson pa gani og baboy kay birthday sa ilang kauban. Bisan gani ang mga CVO (Civilian Volunteer Organization) gipang-imbita sa inuman (The soldiers were drinking. They even roasted a pig because one of their companions was celebrating his birthday. Even the CVOs were invited to drink),” a resident who asked not to be named said in an interview.
The birthday celebration was also confirmed by Barangay Councilman Francisco Wanal when interviewed by davaotoday.com.
“Naay nag-birthday nga sundalo anang adlawa” (A soldier was celebrating his birthday on that day),” Wanal said.
The local councilor added that he was inside their store when the incident took place. The store is just near the mini-gymnasium where close to a thousand individuals were watching a circus on that fateful night of September 1. Wanal said he saw people scamper for safety after the blast.
Meanwhile, Staff Sergeant Avelio Galvez, the detachment commander of the Charlie Company of the 69th IB of Philippine Army said he was already sleeping when the incident happened. “Nakatulog na ako sir (I already fell asleep, sir),” Galvez said when interviewed by davaotoday.com.
Galvez’s statement runs contrary to an earlier report that the army was on alert due to threats. This was according to another resident who heard Galvez’s statement. The fact that he was already relaxing means there was no threat at all, the resident added.
Galvez further said speculations have surfaced after the incident. “Wala naman tayong pinag-bibintangan habang nag-iimbistiga pa (I am not accusing anyone while the investigation is still going on),” he added.
Risk to civilian populace
Nevertheless, the presence of the detachment in the center of the village and lying near a civilian facility was criticized by the residents of Fatima.
Retired Army Sergeant Alberto Mesa, who retired four years ago and opted to stay in Fatima with his family, said army camps should not be established near the civilian populace.
“Karon pa nahitabo nga ang military mag-kampo sa tunga sa mga sibilyan. Sa among panahon wala namo kini ginahimo kay delikado para sa mga sibilyan, (It’s only now that military would camp at the center of civilian populace. We do not do this during our time because it is very risky on the part of the civilians),” Mesa added.
Councilor Wanal, on the other hand admitted that the local council did not pass a resolution nor made any request for the deployment of military in their village.
“Naay mga nangutana ngano dinha gibutang ang detachment. Ila pud gisugyot kung pwede ba istoryahan ang military para sila mobalhin (Some asked why the detachment was established. They even suggested if the military can be requested to transfer,” Wanal added.
The same resident who asked not to be named said the local council did not question the presence of the army in the middle of residential houses. He agreed with Mesa’s observations that the military’s presence always put to risk the security of the civilians in the area.
“Apan dili namo kana mahimo tungod kay sa akong nakita, gikan sa Kauswagan, sa Consolacion ug sa uban pang barangay sa Paquibato naa man gyud sa tunga sa barangay nag-kampo ang military” (But we cannot do that because as I see it, in Kauswagan, in Consolacion and in other villages in Paquibato the military are really camping in the middle of the barangay),” Wanal cited.
Residents said its time for the higher officials to move for the relocation of the military detachment to areas away from the civilians. (Alex D. Lopez, davaotoday.com)