Duterte seeks military pullout from Davao civilian communitiesBy Germelina Lacorte
DAVAO CITY, Philippines—Davao City Vice Mayor Rodrigo Duterte said he will recommend the immediate pullout of military detachments and patrol bases from civilian communities here following Saturday’s grenade-throwing incident that injured 48 people, 18 of them children, in the city’s Paquibato District.
But Duterte, who visited the area on Tuesday afternoon, also demanded that the New People’s Army, if indeed it was behind the attack on a gym barely three meters from a Philippine Army detachment, to explain why they exploded a grenade in a place with many people.
“If they were angry with the detachment, why would they target civilians?” Duterte said.
Even if the military detachment was near the gym in violation of the international humanitarian law, “it was not an excuse for them to bomb civilians,” Duterte added. “Whether they did it or not, they have to explain because everybody is pointing to them.”
He said that as vice mayor, he could only recommend to the mayor, his daughter Sara Duterte-Carpio, and to the high-ranking officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to pull out the detachments from the civilian communities if only to prevent similar incidents from happening.
As of 2 p.m. Wednesday, the NPA had not issued any statement on the incident.
Residents said they were alarmed when the Philippine Army set up a temporary patrol base in between the gym and the Botica ng Barangay in the village of Fatima a few months ago but they could not openly oppose the move for fear they would be accused of supporting the rebels.
“We are not afraid of the soldiers because they are very good to us, but we are afraid of what might happen,” said Ricaredo Gutualan, barangay secretary. “The soldiers have enemies; what will happen to us if they will be exchanging fire and we’d caught in the middle?”
People in Fatima said most of the barangays in Paquibato already have such detachments, as in Barangay Mabuhay, where soldiers use the barangay hall as their base, and in Sitio Maganing in Barangay Tapak, which was also harassed by the NPA the previous month.
Major Jacob Obligado, commander of the Civic and Military Operations Battalion, condemned the grenade attack as a violation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (Carhrihl), while the human rights group Karapatan, which also condemned the incident, pointed out that the setting up of a military detachment in the middle of the civilian community, was also a violation of the Carhrihl.
“Whether the culprits belonged to the AFP or the NPA, the fact that it victimized civilians points to a violation of the Carhrihl,” said Hanimay Suazo, Karapatan secretary general for Southern Mindanao.