On October 27, six armed men set on fire a corn sheller and a school at Kabulohan, Brgy. Buhisan, San Agustin, Surigao del Sur. The corn sheller was a donation of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to the community.
The men also set on fire a UNICEF tarpaulin with a sign, “All schools are peace zones. Don’t use it as command post, detachment and supply depots. RA 7610 Protection of the Rights of Children”. The residents tried to put out the fire but the men indiscriminately fired their guns causing the people to scramble for safety. One of the school’s teachers Josephine Trimidal, who is eight months pregnant, and her husband jumped from their house to avoid the bullets. The teachers living in the teachers’ cottage, Julieto and Melanie Trimidal and their one-year old son also jumped from the cottage and ran towards the nearby river.
“The incident is among the many cases of atrocities in the course of the combat operations by the joint forces of the 2nd Scout Ranger Battalion under LTC. Jesus Durante, 36th IB, 3rd Special Forces Battalion, 401st Brigade, elements of CAFGU, and the paramilitary group of Calpit Egua, and Marcos Bocales, former leader of Task Force Gantangan, a remnant of Gloria Arroyo’s Oplan Bantay Laya,” said Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay.
The series of events since first week of October led some 378 families or close to 1,800 individuals from 16 Lumad communities in Surigao del Sur to leave their homes and fields on October 27, and are now at the Diatagon Barangay Gym. At least 10 community schools and learning centers suspended classes affecting almost 900 pupils. The military also ransacked a community cooperative school.
There are already two victims of extrajudicial killings and two cases of enforced disappearances. Henry Sarsona Alameda, MAPASU council member and Aldren Dumaguit were killed on October 24 while Jojo Tejero and Elde Martinez are reported missing. They were last seen on October 23. Six other civilians were victims of frustrated killing.
The military operation is under the 4th ID now headed by Maj. Gen. Ricardo Visaya’s successor Maj. Gen. Oscar Lactao. Visaya is Gen. Palparan’s protégé while Lactao promised to pursue what Visaya started with the 4th ID. Expectedly, “we see a rise in human rights violations and destruction of people-initiated projects such as the schools, cooperatives, and other community efforts to improve their lives,” Palabay added.
The 22 communities of Mapasu have been targets of massive military operations for years and gross violation of human rights were committed in the course of such operations. In 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011 massive military operations forced the community members to evacuate.
In a command conference of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Oplan Bayanihan, AFP chief of staff Gen. Gregorio Catapang announced the deployment of two more army brigades to Mindanao. Before this, there are already, at least, 55 combat battalions operating in areas considered as NPA stronghold.