November 23, 2009 in Cordillera
By ALDWIN QUITASOL
BAGUIO CITY — The Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) expressed condemnation on the ongoing militarization in sitio Gumhang, Tinoc, Ifugao. Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) troopers began flooding the area after an encounter broke-out between Ifugao police forces and alleged members of New People’s Army (NPA).
CHRA Secretary General Jude Baggo said that because of the pouring of soldiers, around 300 families from Gumhang and adjacent barangays were forced to evacuate to Poblacion Tinoc. He said that the local government officials initiated the evecuation especially of the women and children to prevent possible human rights violations (HRVs) might result from the militarization. Baggo said the officials were apprehensive as the area experienced HRVs by the military during the 1980’s.
The evacuees started returning to their homes on November 14 to 16. The local officials closely monitored the returning of the evacuees to ensure their safety.
According to Baggo, a composite team of the Ifugao Philippine National Police-Provincial Mobile Group (PNP-PMG), the 3rd Ifugao Civilian Auxilliary Army (CAA) Company, and troopers from 54th Infantry Battalion of the AFP are now operating in Tinoc and the nearby town of Asipulo. He added that the soldiers started setting-up detachments and check points.
“These ongoing military activities in Tinoc disrupt the normal life of the community. The militarization in the area sows fear among the residents as they have experience military abuses in the 80’s. The provisions of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) should be strictly observed. They should distinguish the difference between civilian and armed elements,” said Baggo.
In the said encounter on October 12,four alleged NPA members were caught. They were identified later as Abigail Aman, 22, Alfredo Ramos, 28, Mark Gidayawan, 19 and Jan Cruz, 24. They are now detained at the Bureau of Jail and Managment and Penalogy (BJMP) at Tiger Hill, Kiangan, Ifugao. A case of illegal possesion of firearms, ammunition and explosives were later filed against them.
3 days after the encounter, residents of Namal, Asipulo reported bombings and strafings of swidden farms by military helicopters in the afternoon. Unaccounted damages to property were said to be incurred by the military operation.
Meanwhile, volunteers of the Serve The People Brigade-Cordillera Response Network (STP-CRN) delivered relief goods for the residents of Gumhang and nearby areas through the Barangay officials to allay the suspicion from the military that the goods are meant for the NPA.
Volunteer medical workers of the Community Health Education, Service and Training in the Cordillera Region (Chestcore), a member organization of the STP-CRN organized a medical mission together with local health workers to service affected residents. To ensure the safety of the volunteers, the LGU set-up the medical mission’s temporary clinic at the Poblacion Tinoc Municipal Health Unit (RHU) center. # nordis.net