By CHRIS V. PANGANIBAN
LIANGA, Surigao del Sur -- There is no food blockade but the military said all food donations to feed the more than a thousand lumad evacuees here needs to be screened by a government-manned inter agency command post before these will be distributed to them.
The Incident Command Post (ICP) manned by the Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction Office (MDRRMO), police Army, Municipal Social Welfare and Development Office (MSWDO) and other government agencies was set up on Thursday at the village gym in Diatagon used as evacuation center to regulate the distribution of relief goods.
In July 16, some 266 families or 1,483 persons from the hinterland communities of Magkahunao, Yadawan, New Kabulohan and Old Kabulohan in the village of Buhisan in neighbouring San Agustin town and sub villages of Simowao, Emerald, Han-ayan, Man-luy-a, Kilometer 14, Decoy, Mike, Kilometer 16 and Panukmuan in the village Diatagon of this town fled their homes fearing atrocities between New Peoples Army rebels and government soldiers.
Marelyn Layno of MDRRMO said, “The ICP and Assistance Desk aims to provide a timely and more responsive management of the incident that primarily concerns the evacuees which includes the distribution of relief goods. Further, the said desk was intentionally established outside the Gymnasium to ensure the security and safety of the evacuees.”
A parish priest from San Francisco town in Agusan del Sur however complained the food stuff he brought intended to children and mothers on Wednesday was stopped by Army soldiers manning a checkpoint near the evacuation center. “Since when it is illegal to bring food and feed the hungry?”Farther Marlon Lacal asked in his Facebook post.
Melita Encenzo, MSWD Officer, told Mindanao Daily News in a mobile phone interview that there is no food blockade that even relief goods coming from left-leaning groups are welcome especially that the local government unit cannot release yet funds since the evacuation could not be considered a calamity to justify the regulated budget.
She explained the setting up of ICP was agreed during the past Municipal Peace and Order Cuncil meetings that all relief goods from other government agencies including donations from civil society organizations shall be coordinated with the local government for proper recording and monitoring.
“This is to ensure that all relief goods are documented and all beneficiaries will receive appropriate assistance,” Encenzo said.
She denied reports from the Catholic church that some evacuees were reportedly threatened by police officers that they will be delisted as beneficiary of Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), a government program that provides conditional cash gtransfer to the poorest of the poor, if they will not return home to their villages.
“the 4Ps is a national government program and we have no right to delist any of our beneficiaries, “she said.
For his part, Captain Rodulfo Cordero, civilian military operations officer of the 401st Army Brigade, said they did not allow their men to harass the evacuees nor that they were blocking Lacal’s food stuff only that he was told to coordinate with the MSWDO.
A statement from Malahutayong Pakigbisog sa Sumusunod (Mapasu) or Persevering Struggle for the Next Generation said the residents fear for their lives after the 75th Infantry Battalion led by a certain Captain Borromeo set up a military detachment in the sub village of Simowao early last month and followed by a military operation launched by the Army soldiers belonging to 36th Infantry Battalion.
But the military said the areas where the evacuees came from, are part of the Andap Valley Complex, the identified influenced areas and the places where most anniversaries of the NPA rebels were held.
“As a matter of fact, last November 2017, troops of 75th Infantry Battalion seized the largest NPA terrorist encampment in Andap Valley and found hundreds of improvised explosive devices.” Brigadier General Andres Centino, Commander of 401st Infantry Brigade said.
Major General Ronald Villanueva, Commander of Army’s 4th Infantry Division calls the evacuation of lumads an orchestrated mass action.
“It is not the first time that the evacuation of IPs are orchestrated by the groups who are supportive to NPA terrorists. This is to put pressure to the government to advance their motives of lifting Martial Law in Mindanao and push through with the Peace Talks.
Villanueva said there was no recent encounter in Lianga and presence of troops were according to their mandate of protecting the people and the state. “I urge everyone not to be deceived by the orchestrated evacuation and lumad communities not to be manipulated by these organizations to advance their agenda,”Villanueva further said.
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