Gov’t troops vs ASG clash in Bohol caused killing of two civilians, displacement

“Although the recent military operation in Bohol was supposedly in pursuit of ten (10) elements of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), the disposition and safety of civilians should be given priority. Because of the incident, at least 700 residents were forced to evacuate to the Dagohoy High School, two (2) kilometers from their community. Some residents reported that they were not informed to evacuate prior to the bombing, while two civilians killed by soldiers were presented as ASG supporters, without any proof,” said Karapatan Deputy Secretary General Jigs Clamor on the recent reported Bohol clash involving government troops and the so-called ASG members.

Residents of Brgy. Napo, Inabanga, Bohol, crossing a river to get to the evacuation center. Some 700 evacuees evacuated to the Dagohoy High School, 2 kilometers from their community 

(Residents of Brgy. Napo Inabanga, Bohol, crossing a river to get to the evacuation center. Some 700 residents evacuated to the Dagohoy High School, 2 kilometers away from their community)

 

On April 11, 2017, around 5 a.m., a firefight broke out between State security forces and elements of the ASG in Sitio Ylaya, Brgy. Napo, Inabanga, Bohol. The fighting lasted for more than 24 hours where, according to government reports, six (6) ASG members and four (4) State forces were killed. However, the barangay captain of Brgy. Napo, Columbus Estoce, later claimed that two of the six reported ASG casualties were actually civilians.

A Quick Response Team (QRT) dispatched by Gabriela-Bohol on April 13, 2017 reported that the residents’ testimonies corroborated with the village chief’s statement that a couple, Constancio and Crisanta Petalco, who were killed in the clash were civilians.

“Confronted with the reports that two of those claimed as ASG casualties were in fact civilians, Lt. Col. Jose Dodjie Belloga of the 47th Infantry Battalion-Philippine Army (IBPA) justified the military killing of the Petalco couple, instead of admitting their error. Lt. Col. Belloga said that the Petalco couple was part of the ASG since they were relatives of Joselito Melloria, the alleged ASG main contact in the area, and because they didn’t immediately evacuate. Reports, however, said that the couple, like many residents returned to their homes to gather their things. The couple took longer because of Cristina’s disability which made it difficult for her to walk,” said Clamor.

Clamor added that “while the Filipino people want to end the dangers posed by ASG and their presence, this should not be done at the expense of civilians.”

The QRT report emphasized the distress that the entire incident has caused not only to residents of Brgy. Napo, but to neighboring communities as well. Community members lamented that despite being subjected to bombings (a total of 9 bombs were dropped in the village) which caused them to evacuate, they are still faced with uncertainty after reports that not all alleged ASG members were apprehended. Gabriela-Bohol and the residents strongly recommend a comprehensive investigation on the incident, as well as requests for help for the evacuees.

“The evacuees are also seeking for assistance given the lack of food and other basic necessities. The evacuees go to their houses in the morning to feed their animals, and go back to the evacuation center in the afternoon. The residents emphasized that they demand transparency from authorities on information on so-called ASG presence in the community, and to stop justifying wrongful acts,’ concluded Clamor. 

 

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