Rights group hit military use of air raids in Samar


By Joey A. Gabieta
Visayas Bureau
First Posted 19:28:00 09/27/2008

TACLOBAN CITY — A HUMAN RIGHTS group in Eastern Visayas has accused the military of conducting air raids in remote villages of two Samar towns that resulted in the dislocation of families.

The Eastern Visayas chapter of Karapatan claimed that government troops conducted the air strikes in the villages of Bay-ang in San Jorge and in Hagbay in San Jose de Buan on Sept. 16 and 18.

The human rights group also alleged that aside from dropping bombs on these villages, the military also arrested and detained civilians.

“These acts are clear indications that the military is not considering the lives of the civilians and the people whom they are mandated to protect,” the group’s regional secretary general Kathrina Castillo said in an e-mail.

While the military admitted having conducted air strikes, they maintained it was only done in one village in San Jorge town as part of the support for the soldiers pursuing suspected rebels.

Maj. Magintonong Tocalo, chief of the 8th Infantry Division civil-military office, said the allegations were lies that were part of Karapatan’s efforts to malign the Armed Forces of the Philippines before the public.

“It’s nothing but fabricated lies. While it was true that there was such an incident, it was part of our legitimate operations as we hunt down members of the New People’s Army in the area,” Tocalo said in a phone interview on Thursday.

He said the military conducted air raids and bombings in the second week of September but these were done only in Bay-ang village.

Tocalo also clarified that nobody was living in the area that was bombed by the military, which he said was two kilometers away from the barangay proper.

“We have discovered in the area some (abandoned) camps of the rebels. It serves as the base of the rebels operating in Samar,” Tocalo said.

Tocalo also denied that they arrested and detained civilians since there were no people living in the area.

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