Military holds humanitarian volunteers in Davao Oriental
DAVAO CITY, Philippines - At least 70 health workers, social workers, nuns, mediamen, and environmentalists were stranded in a far-flung village in the town of Baganga, Davao Oriental, on Saturday, April 20, after soldiers allegedly blocked their vehicles and harassed their drivers.
The volunteers of the 3-day national humanitarian mission led by Balsa Mindanao was wrapping up the delivery of relief, medical, and psycho-social services to areas affected by Typhoon Pablo.
“The group was illegally held twice in checkpoints by members of the military in the municipality of Cateel. Military assets blocked the road with a dump truck, logs, and rocks in two different locations enough to bar the missioners from passing,” Balsa Mindanao claimed in a text message.
The group also said the drivers of the two trucks they hired abandoned the vehicles and left the area allegedly after the military harassed them. They were set to leave Sitio Cabuyao in Barangay Binondo, which is two hours away from the town center.
“The habal-habal drivers in the area would not also allow us to hire their motorcycles because they fear that they will be harmed by the soldiers. These drivers, including our drivers, were harassed by the soldiers,” the group added.
The volunteers are calling for public support so that they will be able to return to Davao City safely.
Davao Oriental Governor Corazon Malanyaon said in a phone interview that the local police indeed briefly held the group in Commission on Elections checkpoints.
“The police said that this is for security measures, most especially that it is election time,” Malanyaon said.
The governor also said she would send people to check the situation and provide assistance to the volunteers.
The military is still checking with its ground unit in the area to verify the report.
Part of the group's activities was also to conduct a fact-finding mission on the murder of village councilor and food protest leader Cristina Jose. Her relatives said that Jose was gunned down while on her way to the Commission on Human Rights in Davao to file a complaint against the military for alleged threats to her life.
Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Southern Mindanao Region briefly held a protest action in Davao City on Saturday evening, lambasting the military and Malanyaon for sabotaging the mission to cover up issues that include alleged corruption in the delivery of relief services, massive logging, and human rights violations.
“Malanyaon and her group maximized the relief goods intended for Pablo survivors for the interest of their political party and candidates. And they are also afraid that their involvement in the massive abuse of the environment through logging will be exposed,” Bayan-SMR spokesperson Sheena Duazo said.
“I would resign, even if I will win again in the elections despite the fact that I am unopposed, if they would be able to prove that their accusations are true,” Malanyaon said, denying the accusations.
Malanyaon said that it would also be impossible for her to use the relief services for their campaign because she already turned over all relief and rehabilitation responsibilities to Department of Social Welfare and Development. - Rappler.com