KIDAPAWAN CITY – At least 51 families were evicted from their homes in a village in the town of Matalam, Cotabato province, following a clash between government forces and New People’s Army (NPA) rebels last Saturday, October 24th.
The 30-minute clash occurred in Sitio Rudson of Barangay Arakan and resulted in the death of a certain Zaldy Gulmatico Pulido, whom the military identified as the leader of an NPA guerrilla front operating in the province.
Arakan village chief Haron Mantawil said the displaced families had sought refuge in the village center.
Mantawil said villagers are still afraid to return home as tensions remain high as army soldiers are still persecuting rebels who are believed to have been hiding in a wooded part of the village.
“We are still waiting for a start signal from the authorities when it is safe (for them) to go home,” said Mantawil.
He asked for donations of mats, water, food, hygiene kits and mosquito nets for the evacuees.
The governor of Cotabato, Nancy Catamco, visited the families and gave them food parcels and sacks of rice.
Catamco asked the military to ensure the safety of the villagers once they decided to return home.
“What we want is peace of mind for our people. We call on both the military and the rebels to protect the civilian population from any harm, ”said Catamco.
Brig. General Roberto Capulong, commander of the Army’s 602nd Infantry Brigade, said the military forces were on foot patrols when they were fired by the rebels in the mountainous part of the village.
Following the skirmish, government forces recovered an M16 assault rifle, live ammunition, two cell phones and several subversive documents.
On Tuesday, the military used a helicopter to throw hundreds of leaflets into mountain villages urging the rebels to surrender.
At least a dozen NPA fighters are still in the area, Capulong said, citing information shared by locals.
The military officer said the rebels continue to operate in the province, mainly in the hinterland of the cities of Magpet, ARakan and President Roxas, because they are still able to extort money from companies, especially contractors.
Most of the rebels are indigenous peoples, Capulong added.
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