‘Airstrikes hit civilian communities in Northern Samar’ – rights group

“What transpired cannot be considered as ‘surgical precision,’ but an overkill.“

By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – Human rights group Katungod Sinirangan Bisayas condemned the recent airstrike at the communities in Las Navas, Northern Samar allegedly by the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

On Oct. 26, around 6:00 a.m, the Joint Task Force Storm of the AFP Central Command and the 8th Infantry Division conducted “surgical airstrikes” near the area of barangay Capotoan, Las Navas. According to the group, the state forces are in pursuit of the New People’s Army who the troops claim are encamping in the area.

The AFP said in its statement that its Joint Task Force Storm dropped 500-pound bombs on Oct. 26 in barangay Capotoan where about 50 NPA members are encamped.

The NPA unit in the area has not yet released a statement regarding the incident.

However Katungod received reports that several families were affected by the airstrike, causing trauma to the families that were displaced. They are now seeking refuge in nearby villages. Some residents were also forced to sleep in their farms at night.

Katungod condemned what they call as “draconian measures” in pursuing revolutionary forces which the State deemed as enemies.

As of Oct. 29, 10 families have evacuated from barangay L. Empon and 14 families from barangay Paco.

The residents said there are around 140 soldiers that have surrounded their barrio and are conducting intensive military combat operations. This has prevented the residents from going to their farms for fear of being branded as an NPA, the group said.

“What transpired cannot be considered as ‘surgical precision,’ but an overkill. Not only does it cause fear and trauma in the hearts and minds of the residents of nearby barrios, it also may cause widespread damage to the environment as well as the livelihood of farmers who rely on land for subsistence,” the group said in a statement.

They also expressed concern over the number of military troops deployed in the area saying that it will affect the livelihood of the farmers.

The group said that barangay Capotoan and nearby barrios have been subjected to intensive militarization and a massacre threat just a few months ago.

“Just around two weeks ago, barangay Sag-od and nearby barrios were subject to intensive combat operations and were also traumatized by successive encounters between the NPA and the State forces,” the group said.

The group called on the locals to demand respect for basic human rights and to end such massive attacks on the civilian population.

“We demand accountability for the recent incidents which have needlessly endanger human lives in the respective barrios. We also exhort local leaders, from the municipal to the provincial levels to truly defend their constituents and promote these communities’ safety and welfare,” the group said in a statement. ()

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