By MARILOU AGUIRRE-TUBURAN
DAVAO CITY — Wives of New People’s Army (NPA) members were allegedly arrested and detained by the Philippine Army’s 39th Infantry Battalion under Lt. Col. Norman Zuniega on two separate incidents, August 6 and 7, in Sta. Maria town in Davao del Sur.
According to a statement by the National Democratic Front in Far South Mindanao, the two women were identified as Lindy Dawang, 21, and Tayet Magwan, 27, whose husbands are members of the NPA.
Dawang, who is six months pregnant, was “arrested” in Daligasaw village and “forcibly detained” in the battalion headquarters in Sta. Cruz town while Magwan was taken on August 7 in San Isidro village and brought to the same military battalion headquarters with her two-year-old child.
Dawang and Magwan are Blaan natives. Both were said to be taken without a warrant of arrest and are feared to be “undergoing interrogation and possibly torture.”
The 10th Infantry Division of the Eastern Mindanao Command (EastMinCom), however, denied that their men arrested Dawang and Magwan.
Major Jake Obligado, chief of the 10th ID’s Civil-Military Operations Battalion claimed that the two women surrendered to the military.
“They surrendered because of the predicament inside the (NPA) organization,” he told davaotoday.com in a phone interview.
Obligado said that Dawang is a resident of Alegria village in Alabel town, Sarangani Province and an active member of Platoon Lawin under NPA’s Front 71. Dawang, he added, is married to Jay-ar Blel or Ka Jec-jec, a member of the same NPA unit.
He confirmed that Dawang is pregnant and Magwan’s child is with the military. “They are being taken cared of by the 39th IB,” he said, adding that they already coordinated with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to give the “pregnant surrenderee” better attention and for the child’s proper turnover.
EastMinCom spokesman Commodore Romeo Nebres, in a text message, also said the two “voluntarily surrendered” and were with two other NPA males.
Obligado said Dawang is currently under the Municipal Social Welfare Development Officer in Sta. Maria’s Philippine National Police.
The NDFP has condemned the incident as a “vicious” attack on civilians, especially the women and children.
“The 39thIB and the 73rd IB of the 10th Infantry Division have no legal and moral bases whatsoever to detain, interrogate and terrorize them just because they are the wives of NPA Red fighters,” Ka Efren, the NDFP-Far South Mindanao spokesman said.
He pointed out that the two women are “innocent. “They are not members of the NPA, they are ordinary citizens of the state, in the same way that families of the AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines] soldiers are,” Ka Efren cited.
He said the act is a “desperate effort of the AFP to gather intelligence information and coerce the NPAs into giving up their cause.”
Pastor Sadrach Sabella, secretary general of human rights group Karapatan-Socsksargends confirmed that the two women were indeed taken by the military.
“They were picked up by the 39th IB, after some NPA surrenderees pointed at them as wives of NPA guerillas,” Sabella, in a text message todavaotoday.com, said.
Sabella said families of the two have sought their help to be able to visit them after they were informed that they are now with the DSWD.
“Even if they are married to NPAs, they are not involved),” Sabella said, adding that what the 39th IB did in detaining the wives and their children is a violation of the rules of war as stipulated in the Geneva Conventions and the United Nations’ rights of children.
Sabella also said the military has again committed another violation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Laws (IHL), a document mutually signed by the Philippine government and the NDFP to uphold human rights and IHL in the course of armed conflict.
The NDF holds the 39th IB accountable for what they call “flagrant and continuing attacks on the women and children.” They demand “immediate” and “unconditional” release of Dawang and Magwan. (Marilou Aguirre-Tuburan/davaotoday.com)