Tribal villagers flee Philippine army home invasions

Some 200 people flock to Davao city to escape military 'intimidation'
Tribal villagers flee Philippine army home invasions

Some 200 villagers from Mangayon, Compostela town, in Mindanao leave their homes after soldiers reportedly occupied their village. (Photo courtesy of Kilab Multimedia)

Some 200 indigenous people have flocked to Davao city in the southern Philippines after fleeing their homes in the town of Compostela.

They say they were forced to flee as a result of intimidation by Philippine troops who arrived in the Mangayon village area of the town last week looking for communist rebels.

Government soldiers have occupied the community school and their houses, they told ucanews.com.

"Their presence is a threat to us," said a 60-year-old farmer who left the village with his wife and three children. 

"We are scared of the soldiers. They have been asking questions about the rebels," said the farmer who asked not to be named.

The government views Mangayon as a stronghold of the New People's Army, the armed-wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

Jimmy Saypan, secretary-general of the Compostela Farmer’s Association, accused the soldiers of invading the town to try to scare the tribal people into dropping their opposition to a mining project in the area.

The Save Our Schools Network, an alliance of organizations providing education to children in tribal communities, reported that some 30 "fully-armed soldiers" were occupying people’s houses in the village.

The soldiers also occupied the Salugpungan Learning Center, a tribal school supported by the Catholic Rural Missionaries of the Philippines.

Cristina Palabay, secretary-general of rights group Karapatan, said there was an urgent need to provide the displaced people with aid.

"We are appealing for any assistance for the refugees who are mostly the elderly and children," said Palabay.

The exodus from Compostela follows a series of tribal community displacements in Mindanao.

On Sept. 1, some 4,000 people fled their homes in Surigao del Sur province after the killing of two tribal leaders and the director of a tribal school.

In July, some 700 tribal people also fled their homes in Davao del Norte and Bukidnon provinces and sought shelter in Davao city after government troops conducted anti-insurgency operations within their communities.

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