SAN FRANCISCO, Agusan del Sur–Some 67 Manobo lumad families in the neighboring hinterland Sitios in Surigao del Sur fled their homes fearing hostilities between Army soldiers and New Peoples Army rebels might escalate a week after a grenade was lobbed near a house wounding three civilians.
The Malahutayong Pakigbisog Alang sa Sumusunod (Persevering Struggle for the Next Generation) or Mapasu said Army soldiers fired upon a house in Sitio Emerald on February 21 where several people were watching television wounding three victims including a five-year old girl and damaging the roof of the house.
But the Army’s 3rd Special Forces Battalion, in a press statement, said the NPA guerillas were responsible in the indiscriminate lobbing of M203 grenade towards the house that wounded Andrea Gallergo, 55, Marimar Terse, 19 and Reynafe Calipay, 5, all residing at Sitio Emerald.
1Lietenant Krisjuper Andreo Punsalan, civil military officer of 3rd SF Battalion, said their Community Support Team medics immediately applied first-aid and brought the wounded to the Lianga District Hospital.
The displaced residents of Sitio Simowao and Sitio Emerald sought refuge in the neighboring sitios of Km. 16, Han-ayan and Kabulohan because of the threats from the military that the next time they will be attacked by NPA, they will fire upon the civilians and ensure that there will be casualties.
They said that they found it hard to sleep at night and go to their farms because of the military’s threats.
Among the evacuees are four teachers and 62 students of Simowao Community Learning Center run by Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur (Trifpss). The teachers and students were forced to suspend their classes due to the incident.
The military however regarded the grenade lobbing was a conspiracy of the NPA and Mapasu to conduct harassment to the community and blame the Army soldiers setting up detachments in the lumad hinterland communities to trigger what they call as “Taktikang Bakwit (Evacuation Tactic)
“The alleged harassment plan of MAPASU and the NPAs revealed by the informant materialized. This only proved that the allegation that MAPASU and the CNTs conspired to terrorize the community. We already have a lead to the suspected criminals, mostly MAPASU members, who conspired with the NPAs,” said Lieutenant Colonel Joey Baybayan, commanding officer of the 3rd SF Battallion.
“This is a desperate and terroristic move of the NPAs because the ongoing development in Kilometer 9 greatly hurts them,” said Colonel Allan Hambala, commander of 401st Army Brigade.