By JEOFREY MHAR LARUA
SAGADA, Mountain Province — Peasants in northern villages here expressed fear as elements of the 54th Infantry Battalion Philippine Army (IBPA) started making a list of people from the local civilian population who need to “clear themselves” from a military list of alleged members or supporters of the revolutionary New Peoples Army (NPA).
A Barangay Pide official told a fact-finding mission team, on Thursday, August 9, that their security is threatened because of this military list. Of which the qualifications to be in the list is solely defined by the military.
The official refused to be identified for security reasons.
“Adda listaan da nga saan pay nga ammo nu sinno inda inlista, nga mabalin a mapangtaan ti biag mi,” (there is a list of people we are not aware of who -by the military- that they can use to threaten our lives) said the official. One elder from the community is among three others listed in this 54th IBPA red-tag list from the barangay.
According to earlier reports, six soldiers went to Fidelisan village, August 1, informing barangay officials that three of their constituents are in the said list and must clear their names with the military in nearby Aguid Elementary School.
The soldiers were led by 2Lt Keith Gabriel Paquibot of the 54th IBPA.
The three, namely Nelly Bolinget, Lilian Briones, and Norma Padawil, according to the officials, are “innocent and are civilians.”
This followed an emergency meeting called for the barangay officials, on August 3, that cautioned the community about the said list.
“They warned the umili not to open their doors to strangers at nightime, and not to come alone when invited by the military,” said one Fidelisan resident who refused to be identified.
Barangay officials recalled that the military invited themselves into community meetings in Aguid, Pide, Fidelisan without notice in the past couple of months.
Disrespect of culture
Meanwhile, barangay officials in Pide, Fidelisan, and Aguid decried the “peace rally” organized by the troops in Aguid Elementary School during an on-going burial and a wedding, gatherings that are held sacred and deeply respected by the community.
“What they did was an insult to the sacred culture of Igorots,” said one barangay official adding that the troops even took advantage of the food served for the wedding guests.
According to them, the soldiers refused to postpone the peace rally, saying that their “boss” will be coming from Manila to observe.
54th IBPA troops, meanwhile, were observed by the community as using the old facilities of Aguid Elementary Schools as their housing. # nordis.net