Villagers flee due to NPA harassment in Bukidnon

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY — Residents of an entire barangay in Bukidnon province sought shelter at the Kibawe town hall compound since Sunday following clashes between government and communist rebel forces, the military said.

Fear gripped the whole village of Cagawasan in Kibawe after suspected New People’s Army (NPA) rebels hogtied the barangay’s chief tanod Saturday afternoon, forcing the residents to flee, said the town’s chief of police, Senior Insp. Harvey Sanchez.

A day later, on Sunday, several NPA combatants were spotted coercing the people in the area, Sanchez said.

Cagawasan barangay captain Roland Perequitte said the rebels started harrassing them when he and his fellow villagers decided to withdraw their support to the NPA.

“Dili na namo gusto nga pahimuslan pa mi sa mga NPA pinaagi sa paghatod sa ilang mga supply ug pag monitor sa mga sundalo. Labaw sa tanan, dili na namo gusto nga makatugaw sila sa among kinabuhi pinaagi sa ilang pagpanghilabot sa among pagpadagan sa barangay,” Perequitte said . (We don’t want to be exploited by the NPA by acting as couriers of their supplies and in monitoring the soldiers. Above all, we don’t want them to bother our lives by interfering in the affairs of the barangay).

Because they distanced themselves from the rebel movement, Perequitte said the NPA accused the villagers of being military informants.

1Lt. Tere Ingente, spokesman for the Army’s Fourth Infantry Division (4ID), said the 88th Infantry Battalion assigned in the area “is closely coordinating with the municipal government of Kibawe, particularly the Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office and the municipal police station, to address the immediate needs of the evacuees.”

In a separate statement, 403rd Infantry Brigade commander Brig. Gen. Eric Vinoya assured the Cagawasan residents that the brigade will coordinate with local authorities to address the peace and order situation in the area.

The residents’ exodus happened less than a week following an ambush by the NPA that wounded six soldiers in the nearby municipality of Quezon, also in Bukidnon. (Mark D. Francisco/PNA)