Sorsogon human rights mission find Army claim baseless

Contributed Photo
Contributed Photo

By Joey Natividad
Special correspondent

SORSOGON CITY ( – The series of human rights violations committed on civilians in Sorsogon that was blamed by the military on New People’s Army (NPA) atrocities was discovered to be without basis, after a human rights fact-finding mission sent to investigate unearthed different versions of the incidents from affected residents.

On April 30, Army Colonel Teody Toribio of the 31st IB, said over radio broadcast in Sorsogon, that the latest killing of civilian Jovic Estrellado in Bulacao village, Gubat town, was not committed by government soldiers.

The Army officer denied that his units were involved in military operations in the village areas of Gubat, and were not involved in activities affecting innocent civilians.

On the same day, the NPA Celso Minguez Command based in Sorsogon province, in a statement, said the atrocities inflicted on civilians in the Gubat areas were committed by the government military, and not by NPA units.

However, different findings were uncovered from a fact-finding team fielded by KARAPATAN Sorsogon. The human rights team reported that several affected residents in the villages of Panganiban, Tabi, and Bulacao came forward testifying that non-uniformed, heavily-armed personnel disguising as rebels conducted night operations in April within the affected areas of Gubat. The residents claimed that government soldiers had been conducting combat operations in those times within the village areas.

The fact-finding team learned that on the night of April 9, four armed men in ordinary clothing forcibly, without search warrant, entered a house in Panganiban village, Gubat, and minutes later, several more armed men fanned out, entered and searched 15 houses in the neighborhood.

According to the report, five days later, on the night of April 14, five (5) youths gathering at a street corner at Tabi village, were fired upon by 2 armed men riding on a motorcycle. Two youths among the crowd sustained wounds in various parts of the body.

KARAPATAN Sorsogon also learned that the killing of civilian Jovic Estrellado in Bulacao village, Gubat town, on the night of April 29 was the latest of “extra-judicial killings” in Sorsogon province. Gubat town has been the center of covert night-time military operations by the 31st IB.

Reports of human rights violations committed on civilians by armed groups in the on-going internal conflict have been rising in various parts of the country, regardless of the joint agreement signed years ago by the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front on respect for human rights and observance of international humanitarian law.

Both protagonists of war, the Armed Forces and the NPA, have been throwing accusations to each other of “violating human rights on civilians” in times of on-field military activities. []

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