Troops’ pull out from Mindanao urban centers not likely – military
DAVAO CITY- The military will not likely pull out its troops from the cities of Davao and General Santos following calls from militant groups for a similar move in Metro Manila.Around 300 army soldiers had been dispatched to around 30 poor barangays in Metro Manila. The defense department has rejected the calls to withdraw the troops even if they were labeled by progressive organizations as threats to civilians.
Gabriela Women’s party in a press release to MindaNews Monday said the mere presence of army troops invokes psychological torture to women and children.
The military said the soldiers, who were fielded since November, were engaged in anticrime and civic action activities. Bishop Broderick Pabillo, a Manila-based prelate, however, echoed the demands for the pullout of the soldiers claiming they ere harassing people and campaigning against leftist party-list candidates.Dabawenyo Prof. Luz Ilagan, Gabriela’s national chair, said the dispatch repeats a martial law practice which harassed civilians and frightened residents into submissiveness and acceptance of military presence.
“Because these uniformed personnel are searching for people who are unidentified, privacy and even human rights can be violated,” Ilagan said.
Lt. Gen. Rodolfo Obaniana, chief of the AFP’s Eastern Mindanao Command said it is not the residents of the community who has called for the withdrawal but leftists.
“Only the guilty will feel threatened,” he said.
Obaniana said the presence of the Task Force Davao and the Task Force General Santos is still needed to counter terrorism, which has remained a major threat in Mindanao.
Obaniana said only President Arroyo can order the deactivation of these task forces. He said, however, that it is the stakeholders in the area such as the local government unit who has to say the troops are no longer needed.
He said the local government has remained resolved to keep the troops in.
“We haven’t eliminated the threat that is why we are staying,” he told reporters during the AFP/PNP Defense Press Corps conference Thursday.
Obaniana said they were, however, ordered to prepare for contingency plans to maintain peace and order in the areas where the task forces are present in case the deactivation would be ordered.
He said the military presence in Davao City, has helped make the city conducive for development. He said progress in the city has doubled since they activated Task Force Davao in 2003 following twin bombings in the city’s sea and airport.
The EastMinCom chief said pulling out the troops might not be good as the terrorist threat is still there.
He said the most that could happen could be changing the name of the task force, not its deactivation owing to the fact that special CAFGUs are funded by the local government.
Special CAFGUs, he said, compose most of TF Davao’s forces.
Obaniana said, however, they have not heard of a plan to deactivate the military’s unit in the city (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews).