Anti-insurgency campaign traps thousands of villagers

The Mindanao Examiner Regional Newspaper - - First Page - (Mindanao Examiner)

DAVAO CITY – Thousands of villagers were trapped in at least 3 towns in the southern Philippine province of Compostela Valley where security forces launched a massive assault on communist rebels, human rights group Karapatan said.

It said at least 1000 families were affected by the military operations which began last week and that three farmers had been shot and killed by soldiers in Monkayo town on suspicion they were members of the New People’s Army. Troops from the army’s 69th and 71st Infantry Battalion also imposed a food blockade the towns of Maragusan and New Bataan, including Monkayo; and harassed villagers.

Karapatan said air force planes also bombed several times the village of Parasanon in Maragusan, but it was unknown if there were civilian casualties as soldiers prevented human rights workers to inspect the area.

Jay Apiag, a spokesman for Karapatan, said farmers and civilians have been accused by the military as supporters of the NPA or members of the communist group and targeted by sol- diers in their desperate hunt for insurgents.

“We deplore their counter-insurgency ploys of demonizing the civilian populace in communities,” he said.

He said they will conduct fact-finding missions in Compostela Valley and also appealed to President Rodrigo Duterte to order an investigation into the military campaign that affected civilians in the province.

“We urge President Duterte to investigate and hear the sides of the civilian farmers and not the lies and spins of the military,” Apiag said, adding, the “president must rein in his army who are spoilers of peace and violators of human rights.”

There was no immediate statement from the military on the allegations, but it previously tagged Karapatan as a front of the communist group, an accusation it strongly denied.

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