Army stages ‘gunfire’ to bar HR group from humanitarian mission

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SNIPER ALERT? A machine-gun wielding soldier from the 46th IB casually leans on a tree and takes cover through the leaves as sniper fire comes from his left side. Karapatan-SMR staff were barred from entering Sitio Diat, Post Four, Brgy. Tibagon, Pantukan Compostela Valley, due to the staged firing incident by the said military unit. (Photo by Kim Nguyen, Karapatan SMR)

TAGUM CITY- Karapatan – Southern Mindanao decried the staged “sniping and gunfire” Thursday of the Army’s 46th Infantry Battalion that prevented their team from conducting a humanitarian mission in Brgy. Napnapan, Pantukan, Compostela Valley.

Hanimay Suazo, Karapatan secretary-general, said that around 30 missioners went on this mission coordinated with local officials to check on incidents of indiscriminate firing by the 46th IB that killed one civilian and wounded three others. But they were barred by the soldiers on a checkpoint.

“We arrived by 2:30 pm at the checkpoint made by the 46th IB around 200 meters from the community. They kept on repeating the area was not safe for our entry,” Suazo said.

After that, they heard three shots in the vicinity. “We heard three loud shots. Some of us stooped down for cover, but we were surprised to see the military standing their ground, like nothing happened.”

“It was in the second volley of shots that they told us to take cover by the side of the road, repeatedly saying that we would not be in danger.

After that, more shots followed and a certain “Fernandez” from the 46th IB told us that he could not vouch for our safety if we pushed through, in a pretentious tone,” Suazo said.

Suazo said that the scenario was dubious one, as the soldiers did not stay alert to protect them or engage the direction where the shots were fired. ”

“There were several shots, about eight of them, yet they seemed not to be concerned. They did not react where the shots came from. It was really meant to harass our team from entering the militarized community.”

She even saw a soldier with a machine gun laying on a tree.

“Either it was staged, or they are just imbeciles who forgot who to conduct combat and protect civilians, or it could be both,” she quipped.

She said sound of gunfire were muffled and were uphill near the peace mission contingents.

Suazo said that they did not continue to enter the community, but clarified that the reason was because they might be hit by the 46th IB just as what happened to residents in Napnapan.

“We cut short our mission owing to the possibility that we could be strafed by the 46th IB and charged us as collateral damage or, worst case scenario, tagged us NPA rebels. They had done it just this week, with Ronel Paas, a smallscale miner whom they shot and killed, and maimed 14-year-old-boy, a gold flusher.

Both were branded as NPAs,” Suazo clarified.

But she said their experience was able to expose the nature of the 46th IB as deceptive and trigger-happy. She said “the presence of the military in the area only goes to show that the community is being hamletted by the military. Instead of going after the NPA, they are staying in civilian structures, using the people around as shields.”

“The real danger in Post Four is not the alleged presence of the NPA, but the gross disrespect for human rights of the 46th IB, as seen in this mock gunfire incident. By such nature they are terrorizing people in the area, thus displacing them in order for largescale mining companies to plunder the livelihood of the small-scale miners, the farmers and the lumads in the area,” she added.

Karapatan demands the pullout of the 46th IB and hold those personnel accountable for the killing of Paas and wounding of three other civilians.

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