By KIMBERLIE NGABIT-QUITASOL
MALIBCONG, Abra — The barangay council of Buanao village in Malibcong town of Abra province expressed support to the continuation of the peace negotiations between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and called for a ceasefire declaration.
In an interview after a community meeting on April 5, Buanao Barangay Captain Pablo Manangbao said his barangay council passed a resolution in support to the peace talks, declaration of ceasefire, and eventually lasting peace to his community. He said the resolution also asked both the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the New People’s Army (NPA) not to enter their community armed.
Manangbao said the community meeting was held to help address the issues brought about by the recent incidents that include the raid, ambush, bombing run and military operation. He said the meeting was with a human rights organization that came to help them.
Soldiers are presently encamped inside three houses in Buanao.
Manangbao said his community was recently shaken by a bombing run by the AFP and on going military operation since March 14. He said the bombing and continuing military pursuit operation against NPA rebels bring fear to his people and affects their economic activities.
“Col. Baluga (commanding officer of 24th IB) himself told us, during our barangay fiesta (March 19), not be going far into the forests because his soldiers are there that is why many of the upland farms and free grazing carabaos and cows in the nearby forests have been unattended since the military pursuit operation,” Manangbao said.
Manangbao said the operation continues as of press time.
Romulo Teneza, the barangay council secretary, said the resolution was passed on March 29 following a March 27 meeting called for by Malibcong Mayor Romando Bacuyag for barangay captains to talk about the bombing and on going military operations. He said the resolution hopes to bring faster resolution to their problem.
Teneza said due to fear of operating soldiers, Buanao residents refrained from visiting their upland farms and checking on their carabao herds in the community pasture land in their communal forest. He said that the fear comes from human rights violations residents have experienced in the past when soldiers chance upon them tending to their upland farms.
Teneza explained that the rice fields nearer to the community are not enough to sustain Buanao folks that they need to develop upland farms to augment their food supply. He added that carabaos are very useful for farm help, transportation and even for financial needs.
Sixto Bawa, a barangay council member, said he has not seen his four carabaos since March 16. “We do not know if they are still alive, if they survived the bombing runs,” he said.
“We are afraid to go into the forest to look for them, because the soldiers will accuse us of bringing supply to NPA rebels,” Bawa said.
Bawa said that aside from being instrumental in plowing the fields, they also sell the carabaos to pay school fees and buy other household needs. # nordis.net