Hundreds flee Panabo City villages as Army bombs NPA positions
11hundreds (DAVAO CITY) — Around 300 residents of two remote barangays in Panabo City, 35 kilometers northeast from here, fled following military operations in suspected rebel positions as of 5p.m. today, the Office of the Civil Defense said.Minda Morante, OCD Southeastern Mindanao regional director, told MindaNews the evacuees rode on a dump truck and a 10-wheeler cargo vehicle arranged by the city government.
The City Government of Panabo converted the Gymnasium of the Panabo City Elementary Central School as an evacuation site and has sent more vehicles to the two barangays fearing more evacuations.
Morante cited reports from the Panabo City Disaster Coordination Council, which manned evacuations from barangays Manay and Casilak starting 11:30 a.m., more than an hour after the military started firing at NPA positions in the two barangays.
Maj. Randolph Cabangbang, spokesperson of the EastMinCom said the military has engaged in pursuit operations against the rebels who raided the Davao Prison and Penal Farm and carted away 117 firearms Easter Sunday morning.
Cabangbang confirmed to MindaNews in a telephone interview the military launched both aerial and ground assaults in locations in both barangays around 10a.m.
Members of the Army’s 73rd Infantry Battalion and Davao del Norte police tried to enter Manay village after receiving tip a group of NPA guerillas led by Leoncio Pitao alias Kumander Parago were hiding in the area.
Cabangbang said the NPA “sniped armor vehicles” of the military positioned in the area as part of the pursuit operations.
Cabangbang said around 60 rebels were sighted to have allegedly hostaged the residents and used them as human shield for cover in withdrawing.
Residents interviewed by GMA-7 Testigo, however, said no such thing happened and it was fear following the military attack and possible encounter, that forced them to flee.