Police still keep watch over area of encounter with alleged NPA in Batangas
Eleven days after government forces battled alleged members of the New People's Army in a hilly area in Batangas City, police have put checkpoints going into Mt Banoy, the site of the encounter where the military said one suspected NPA was killed.
A policewoman, who did not give her name but said she was with the Police Community Relations Group in Batangas City, told the Daily Manila Shimbun: "That is the policy. "
"If there are any members of NPA who want to elude arrest or want to flee, there is a possibility when they have a supporter from this group , non-government sectoral group that they may mix or they can fle or they elude arrest", she said.
On September 24, soldiers of the 202nd Infantry Brigade of Cavinti, Laguna and the 730th Combat Group of the Philippine Air Force and Batangas police clashed with suspected NPA members in Mt. Banoy. Brgy. Talumpok Silangan around 8:50 am.
A Batangas police officer said they recovered the body of a suspected NPA member in the area after the fight.
Arnold Evangelista of Karapatan said in an interview with the Daily Manila Shimbun, claimed the Philippine Air Force conducted an aerial strike during the fighting at Mount Banoy, which resulted in the death of a minor. A farmer is said to be missing, and a female arrested based on the testimonies of residents in the affected area.
"We are trying to locate the whereabouts of the child. Even the press admitted there is a dead child that is why we want to know the identity or the exact location of this child", Evangelista said.
"There is one female that was arrested. This was not confirmed that is why we wanted to verify the reports and there is one farmer , who..was also an NPA, we don't know if ( he was) arrested or he is already dead", he said.
The policewoman said there were 15 barangays affected by the fighting but there were no other deaths except one body they recovered.
"We have no reports ( of other deaths)", the policewoman said.
"There is no proof. We have no supporting documents... and they don't have documents to prove what they are claiming if there is minor (killed)", she said.
Gabino Boongaling, a resident of Sitio Hulo, Brgy Banalo, which is near the area of conflict, said he did not hear firefight but bomb explosions.
"We heard a helicopter. There were explosions but we did not hear many gunshots", he said.
Boongaling said the fighting went on for two days during which they heard explosions and helicopters flying around the area.
"In a day, it's only once. They fired, then they fly the helicopter around. The fight lasted for two (days)", he said.
Victoria de Chavez, a resident of Brgy. Banalo, Lobo said she did not hear gunshots but they saw two helicopters flying around the area and heard explosions. "No (firefight), just bombs", she said.
De Chavez said she felt a little afraid but she did not thought of evacuating.
Fr. Randy Sudario of St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Ilijan, Batangas City said there were 30 families who evacuated from Sitio Maalbo, Brgy. Dela Paz to the Ilijan parish.
"There has been an evacuation. People had in mind that Marawi might be the scenario here and I heard one of the reason why the military had these helicopters flying or hovering in these barangays that I mentioned is to put an end to the encounter", he said.
Sudario said residents from Brgy. Talahib Pandayan evacuated to Talahib Pook and residents from Pulot Itaas went to Pulot Aplaya. Some went to the city.
"Early morning, they also left and went back all because they have livestock to care for", he said.
Evangelista said Karapatan wanted to deliver relief goods to the victims but they were blocked by the police after being suspected as supporters of NPA.
"The human rights defenders of the Philippines especially (in) Southern Tagalog we are being branded as supporters of the NPA. The military, even the policemen, said in the group there are NPAs that is why we were barricaded by the military and the policemen. We were stopped from getting inside the communities", he said.
Fr. Jojo Mendoza of Saint Michael the Archangel parish church in Banalo town in Lobo said the mayor did not allow the three jeeps with relief goods and young people from the group to enter the area since the community was at "peace and no cause for alarm".
He said another nine jeeps with relief goods and members of the same group tried to enter the area before they were blocked by police on September 30.
"Last Saturday there were nine jeeps about to enter the vicinity of our boundary and the police stopped it because it looked strange for the police?", he said.
The Batangas police said it was the policy of the police not to allow anyone to enter the vicinity of Mt. Banoy for security purposes. Alanna Ambi/DMS