SORSOGON CITY, Sorsogon Province – 26Sept2013 (BicolToday.com) – “The helicopters were dropping bombs!”
The human rights watchdog group, Karapatan, on Wednesday claimed that there were helicopter aerial bombings, aside from strafing on civilian areas in upper Juban villages on Sunday.
The group said that civilians, who witnessed the helicopter strikes, heard loud explosions on the ground and automatic gunfire coming from the two helicopters which struck at suspected rebel positions, but the targeted areas are near farm lots and residential areas.
Early reports on Monday said there were only strafing by gunfire coming from helicopters during the fighting on Sunday, but Karapatan’s discovery on the use of aerial bombing sorties over civilian areas by military helicopters can cause ripples of critical public opinion, especially among the conservative religious sector and civil society in the Bicol Region.
These, among others, were gathered by Karapatan on Monday during its fact-finding probe on the strafing and aerial bombing incidents in Juban town.
According to Karapatan-Sorsogon spokesman Teodoro Escanilla, fleeing men, women, and children suffered extreme fear and trauma when the helicopters started spitting out gunfire and dropping bombs on the ground as spin-offs from the ongoing ground battle between Army soldiers and NPA rebels in upper Maalo and Calmayon villages that Sunday.
“Folks abandoned their homes, their working animals, and their daily tasks for food needed to survive as they fled from the aerial bombings and strafing,” said the human rights group.
Several folks were prevented by Army soldiers from leaving the area, while others fled toward nearby villages of Bacolod, Tublijon, Catanusan, and to the town proper.
“They were not able to work in their lots, nor gather firewood and honey which are part of their daily livelihood just to survive,” said the fact-finding group.
Empathizing with the tragic plight of rural folks, the Karapatan group called for the resumption of peace talks between the government and rebel forces to put an end to this internal conflict and to achieve lasting peace with justice. [BicolToday.com]