theWeeklySillimanian | January 30, 2021
The clash between the New People’s Army (NPA) and Army troopers was once again making headlines across Negros Oriental. Last January 16, the first encounter took place at the boundary of Sitios Punong and Batong Buang in Barangay Trinidad, Guihulngan around 1 p.m. as troops of the 62nd Infantry Battalion encountered an undetermined number of suspected NPA rebels. At least four clashes ensued that day and continued the next day, warranting air support.
With that presence of conflict, around 30 families were forced to evacuate to safer grounds. At least 120 to 150 individuals had to live with the trauma– scared, unprepared, and confused where to go. Although no casualties were reported from the civilians, this is the reality that perpetuates in their very home. They had to flee, ask for food aids, and in some cases, return to their villages now ruined from the insurgency.
This is not new in the province; Negros Oriental is even tagged as a “hotspot of rebels.” Past reported encounters have proved that NPAs lurk around the hinterlands, spurring the police and military to undertake measures to ensure the safety and security of the public. This might appear to be an assurance from the unanticipated, yet too far from the grave danger that residents are grappling with. They have expressed fear of insurgency problems resurfacing in the past years in their barangays. The presence of uniformed personnel with firearms creeps them out for they do not know whether these are legitimate military/police operatives or insurgents. The threat is real, here and now, and one cannot be fully confident especially in this current political climate.
While the Weekly Sillimanian (tWS) recognizes the recurring peril that it bears, we stand along with the most vulnerable sectors as they hurdle between conflicts. The indigenous communities are in this plight for the longest period, and tWS refuses to tolerate its existence.
Indigenous people (IP), not only in the province, have experienced intensified violations of their human and collective rights. IPs and human rights defenders suffered unbridled attacks; they were criminalized for protecting their rights to their lands and for fighting against human rights violations and tyranny.
We call for the optimum safety and security of these affected residents. We call to stop the practice of red-tagging, both universities and those with indigenious identities.
As we get closer to the 2022 elections, let us all ponder how these situations have wreacked havoc on our country, and how government officials maneuver for their constituents. Together, let us remain vigilant and proactive.