Soldiers still roam around lumad areas in Surigao—Gabriela solon

Gabriela Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan countered the claims of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) that soldiers had already left the lumad communities in Surigao del Sur, saying that she saw soldiers roaming around there when she has joined a medical and relief mission last August 30.

The soldiers, says the militant lady solon, are camping out besides the school building.

“This is contradicts earlier statement of the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) that it already pulled out its forces in the area, as agreed upon by the local government officials and military officers deployed in the besieged communities,” Ilagan said in a statement.

Reports said, the Manobos and other indigenous peoples living in the area were forced to leave their homes in June when the military mounted operations against the communist New People’s Army.

“While the mission was commencing, they tried to blend in with the people and took the pictures and the names of the delegates and the lumad who joined the mission,” she said.

Her statement furthered that Sunday, when the mission accompanied the lumads to their homes in Lianga, “soldiers in full uniform (and) carrying high-power(ed) arms, were seen manning a checkpoint a few minutes away from civilian houses and (a) school.”

The lawmaker said although the lumad were “generally happy to have finally returned to their homes after three months of stay at the evacuation center, it is obvious they still fear for their future.”

“We cannot blame them as militarization has been part of their lives since 2005,” adds Ilagan.

“They have repeatedly been harassed—one of their tribe members died in 2007 and four are missing until present—and displaced, and unless the military permanently pulls out its troops in Surigao del Sur, there is a chance that it will happen again in the near future,” she ended