By ARTHUR ALLAD-IW
SAGADA, Mountain Province — Army troopers based here took two Sagada tourist guides by force and used them as human shields and guides in their military operations in the forested areas at the boundary with Abra.
Nordis sources identified the tourist guides as Christopher Angway and Alen Dugao, both members of the Sagada Environment Guides Association (SEGA).
Angway and Dugao were taken separately on July 3 in Lake Danum by army troopers believed to belong to a composite team of 50th, 54th, or 77th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army deployed in Sagada and Besao towns.
The sources said Angway and Dugao, with two other companions, went to Lake Danum here to check on the tents and other preparations for the visit of mountain climbers from the Mountain Federation of the Philippines. The said climbers, who had a summit in Sagada, will proceed to Lake Danum on July 4 and then have their mountain climb in the Buasao forest area.
Coming from Sagada Poblacion on June 3 to check his companions in Lake Danum, Angway met army troopers near the said lake at about 3:30 P.M.
Sources claimed that when Angway was confronted by the troopers why he was in the area, he explained that they had an ongoing preparation for the visit of the mountain climbers in Buasao, a mountain that extends to Abra and Kalinga. The soldiers asked him if he is a member of the New People’s Army (NPA) and he replied in the negative.
Disregarding explanations he made, Angway was taken against his will and brought to their camp in Buasao where he met Dugao. He learned that Dugao, a son of a Sangguniang Bayan member of this town, was also taken by the troops near Lake Danum.
They pleaded to be released as they are awaited for a report on their preparations, but the troops instead had the two stay overnight in their camp. Their cellphones were taken by their captors, which they returned only when the batteries were drained.
The commanding officer of the military detachment was identified as one Damunsong. The victims failed to get his first name, however.
“We pleaded for them to return our cellphones so we could inform our companions, but they just ignored us,” one of the victims narrated to Nordis.
The next day was another experience for the two guides as they were used as human shields and guides by the military for at least three hours in their operations in Buasao, even near the Beew-Baclingayan areas of Abra, a victim added.
“We feared for our lives if an encounter happened as we were in the forefront, while the troops followed us,” narrated a victim but was so happy nothing happened to them from their “horrible experience.
A resident of this town claimed Sagada is still a peace zone area where the presence of the troops could be a violation of such policy.
The mountains in the tri-boundary of Abra, Mountain Province and Kalinga had been the site of clashes between government troops and the NPA in the past months. # nordis.net