More than 15,000 residents of Barangays Carabalan and Cabadiangan of Himamaylan City have reportedly sought refuge in evacuation centers this morning following the imposition of a week-long lockdown by government forces starting last weekend.
The 303rd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army (PA) ordered civilians to either vacate their homes or stay indoors as pursuit operations are being conducted against New People’s Army (NPA) rebels.
The evacuations were ordered after the 94th Infantry Brigade of the PA clashed with a unit of the NPA’s Mt. Cansermon Command last Thursday, September 6, at Sitio Sig-ang, Brgy. Carabalan, Himamaylan.
Those ordered to evacuate are residents of Sitios Palayan, Tongo and Guia of Barangay Cabadiangan as well as several sitios of Barangay Biao.
Earlier, the NPA said government troops bombed sitio Double Yarding of Barangay Mahalang last October 7 that lasted 20 minutes.
Sitios Cunalom, Casipungan, Cambulan, Pangi and Igaw of Barangay Carabalan were also bombed by the Philippine Army, the rebels said, adding government troops also destroyed houses and slaughtered farm animals.
Philippine Army justifies evacuations
Meanwhile, PA’s 94th IB announced on its Facebook page that two of its soldiers died while six others were injured in Thursday’s fire fight .
The Region 6 Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (RTF6-ELCAC) has justified the military’s evacuation orders but admitting to only 290 families or 1190 individuals evacuated in seven refugee centers in the city.
“The evacuation of these families is necessary so that they will not be use(d)…as human shields or as hostages to deter the pursuing army troopers,” RTF6-ELCAC spokesperson Flosemer Chris Gonzales said.
Gonzales also criticized local social media news outlets and “some ill-informed media outfits” for so-called “heavily slanted and heavily-biased news articles” of the October 6 clash.
‘Rights violations after defeat’
The NPA’s Apolinario Gatmaitan Command said the PA’s evacuation order on civilians is the result of its frustration over its October 6 defeat.
Juanito Magbanua, the Negros Island Regional NPA spokesperson added that the PA is also extending their pursuit operations to increase its expenses that “give way to their corruption and at the expense of “terrorized” civilians.
The National Democratic Front in Negros meanwhile called on the local government of Himamaylan City to protect its constituents.
“The local government unit (LGU) of Himamaylan City should not just standby and allow these attacks against its constituents. The LGU should assert civilian supremacy and demand an end to the militarization of Himamaylan City,” NDF-Negros spokesperson Bayani Obrero said in a separate statement.
Obrero also stressed “utmost urgency to demand respect for human rights and observance of international humanitarian law,” in the face of military-imposed forced evacuations, bombings, threats of airstrikes and militarization of Negros Island. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)