Military evacuates hundreds of families on Maundy Thursday in Rizal province

By Nuel M. Bacarra

More than a hundred families were forcibly evacuated by the Philippine Army from two barangays in Rodriguez, Rizal on Maundy Thursday, April 6, due to ongoing military operations in the area, groups reported.

More than 80 families In Barangay Mascap were forced to vacate their homes and are reportedly staying at the community’s covered basketball court while another 75 families from Barangay Puray were evacuated by the 80th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army, Anakpawis Party said in a statement.

The group also said there are about 150 babies at the Mascap evacuation site who are in need of milk and diapers.

The affected residents are also asking for donations of food, water and tents, Anakpawis said.

Earlier, 90 families of nearby Barangay San Rafael were also told to evacuate by the military, the group added.

Anakpawis Party-Rizal said the victims are gripped by fear and hunger, instead of solemnly observing Maundy Thursday.

The group said the forced evacuation followed the Philippine Army’s ongoing military operations against New People’s Army (NPA) fighters based in the area.

Philippine Army’s 2nd Infantry Division based in Tanay town earlier reported a firefight with the NPA in Sitio Wawa, Barangay San Rafael last March 31, killing a government trooper and wounding two others.

Unconfirmed reports from the area the fighting continued until April 2, forcing the municipal government to ban tourists from visiting Wawa Dam and Barangays Puray, Mascap and Macabud “until further notice.”

Anakpawis reported that the evacuees are worried that their crops and farm animals will be destroyed if the military would carry out aerial bombings.

The evacuees have asked the military to allow them to return to their farms but were denied, Anakpawis said.

Meanwhile, Tanggol Magsasaka Southern Tagalog called on Rodriguez mayor Ronnie Evangelista and Rizal governor Rebecca Ynarez to order the military to call off its operations in the area and come to the aid of their constituents.

Rights group KARAPATAN – Rizal also called on the Commission on Human Rights and International Committee of the Red Cross to investigate the forced evacuation of the civilians by the military.

Since February, the 80th IBPA reportedly started intensified military operations in the area covered by the P26-billion Wawa-Violago Dam Project.

The project is a joint venture between billionaire Enrique Razon and Violago family-led San Lorenzo Builders and Development Group Inc., expected to operate by 2025.

The soldiers serve as guards to the project. #