By ARTHUR L. ALLAD-IW
Posted by Bulatlat
SAGADA, Mountain Province – Army troopers based here, 275 kms. north of Manila, forcibly took two Sagada tourist guides and used them as human shields and guides in their military operations at the forested areas near Abra.
Sources identified the tourist guides as Christopher Angway and Alen Dugao, members of the Sagada Environment Guides Association (SEGA).
Angway and Dugao were separately seized on June 3 in Lake Danum by army troopers believed to belong to a composite team of the 50th, 54th, or 77th Infantry Battalions of the Philippine Army deployed in Sagada and Besao.
Sources said Angway and Dugao, with two other companions, went to Lake Danum to check on the tents and other preparations for visiting mountain climbers from the Mountain Federation of the Philippines. The climbers were holding a summit in Sagada at the time, and had plans to proceed to Lake Danum on June 4 and climb the mountain in the Buasao forest area.
Coming from Sagada Poblacion on June 3 to check on his companions in Lake Danum, Angway met army troopers near the lake at about 3:30 P.M.
Sources claimed that the troopers questioned Angway as to why he was in the area; Angway reportedly explained that they were preparing for a visit of mountain climbers to Buasao, a mountain extending toward Abra and Kalinga. The soldiers asked Angway if he was a member of the New People’s Army (NPA), Angway said no.
Disregarding his explanations, Angway was taken against his will and brought to the military’s camp in Buasao where he met fellow tourist guide Dugao. Angway learned that Dugao, son of a Sangguniang Bayan member of Sagada, had also been seized by the troops near Lake Danum.
The two tourist guides pleaded for their release as they had responsibilities to report on their preparations, but the troops insisted they stay overnight in the military camp. Their captors confiscated their cell phones and returned it only after its batteries were drained.
The Commanding Officer of the military detachment was identified as one Damunsong. The victims failed to get his first name.
“We begged for our cell phones so we can inform our companions, but they just ignored us,” said the tourist guides.
The next day the two guides were used as human shields and guides by the military for at least three hours in their operations in Buasao up to nearby Beew-Baclingayan areas of Abra, recalled one of them.
“We feared for our lives. If an encounter occurs we were at the forefront, the troops at our backs,” narrated a victim.
A Sagada resident said Sagada as a town is still a “peace zone” and presence of the military troops violates the policy covering peace zones.
The mountains in the tri-boundary of Abra, Mountain Province and Kalinga have been the site of clashes between government troops and the NPA in the past months.(Bulatlat.com)