March 14, 2009
DAVAO MAYOR LAMBAST AFP
DAVAO CITY, Philippines -- Enough is enough. Even the City mayor is angry at the military abuses.
Military abuses are driving more and more people to join communist rebels, Mayor Rodrigo Duterte said here Friday. This is what AJLPP sources learned today.
Duterte said instead of harassing and restricting the movement of civilians in Paquibato District, an area believed influenced by rebels, the military should just wipe it off the map with bombs.
Paquibato is a known lair of Leoncio Pitao, alias Commander Parago, head of the New Peoples Army’s First Bagani (Warrior) Command. Parago and Duterte are friends.
Pitao’s daughter, Rebelyn, was abducted and found dead with torture and rape signs.
Duterte said he repeatedly asked the military to check on the abuses and stop soldiers from harassing civilians but his call fell on deaf ears.
Village officials of Paquibato had complained that soldiers would regularly round up civilians and ask them about their political affiliations.
The village officials also claimed that the military was forcibly recruiting civilians into the anti-communist group Barangay Defense System (BDS). They told city officials that those who refuse would be automatically suspected of being communists and harassed.
This prompted the city council to call for the pullout of soldiers, who belong to the Army’s 3rd Special Forces, from the area in February.
The latest of the atrocities against civilians attributed to the military was Thursday’s killing of a Paquibato resident, who Duterte described as “someone vocal against the presence of the soldiers in the area.”
“You have not learned your lessons... give justice to everybody and the NPA will disappear... If you are not idiots, you would have already realized that the more you harass the people, the more you harm them, the more you maul them, the more rebels come,” said Duterte in a press conference here.
He said insurgency can only be solved by providing people with livelihood and not by harassing them.
“Do us a favor... Wipe it [Paquibato] all out. Bomb the entire place. Stop mauling these civilians, instead kill them all... go ahead, be my guest,” he said.
“I now leave Paquibato to the Army. Do whatever you want,” said Duterte.
“The city government is now backing out from the problem of insurgency in Paquibato. If you need to kill all of them, do it. Now if you want all-out war with the NPA in the area, go on,” Duterte said.
Duterte also announced that he was withdrawing the city government’s financial assistance to the military in Paquibato.
Lt. Col. Rolando Bautista, spokesperson of the 10th Infantry Division, said the military respected Duterte’s decision.
“We know that the fight against insurgency is not the fight of the military alone,” said Bautista.
He also denied reports of human rights abuses by soldiers in the area.
“Many lives of our soldiers have been sacrificed to liberate Paquibato from the bondage of atrocities and abuses of the NPA,” he said.