MALAYBALAY CITY, Bukidnon, May 24 - After three days of staying away from their homes, families from San Roque and Santa Rita sub-villages in barangay Sinanglanan, Malaybalay City who had evacuated for fear of their lives rode back home safely on Tuesday afternoon.
The evacuees, also known as "bakwits (internally displaced persons)," headed back to their homes with assurance from barangay council, Armed Forces of the Philippines, and Philippine National Police for their safety.
On May 18 at 6:00 p.m, some of the Bakwits started heading home, while others opted to return the next day as Sinanglanan village chief Nilo Aldeguer offered his vehicles and facilitated the transport of his constituents.
In an interview, "Manang Ina" one of the evacuees said they left their homes after a band of New People's Army (NPA) rebels awoke them Saturday night asking for cash and food.
"For fear of the NPA's presence who sow terror and panic in our communities, we sought refuge here in nearby Sitio Malapgap on May 16," she said.
Barangay chairman Nilo Aldeguer reported that the Bakwits, comprising 163 families of 624 individuals, including children, temporarily stayed inside Malapgap school classrooms to provide them more space in fear of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) transmission.
"As soon as the authorities received the information, Malaybalay local government unit and other peace and development partners promptly provided relief operations, feeding program, and medical mission to ensure proper health condition of the evacuees. The Philippine National Police and the Philippine Army immediately secured the area and provided other assistance to ease the evacuees' burden," Aldeguer added.
An evacuee even shared "Gusto namo nga mobalik sa among panimalay kay tua didto ang among panginabuhi-an. Tungod aning teroristang NPA, naguba among malinawon nga panginabuhi. (We want to return to our respective villages because it is there that we earn enough to live on-our livelihood. Unluckily, these terrorist-NPAs had ruined our peaceful living)."
Likewise, the village chief said "Mapasalamaton ko nga makapa-uli na sila sa ilang panimalay. Nagpasalamat sab ko sa lokal nga gobyerno ug mga kasundalohan sa pagtabang kanamo aron masulbad kini nga problema. (I'm so happy that they [evacuees] can now return to their homes. I thanked the local government and the Army for helping us resolve these woes).
Lt. Col. Edgardo V. Talaroc Jr, 8th Infantry Battalion commander, meanwhile, condemned the NPA's terroristic acts.
"I condemned these acts of the NPAs. They disrupted the peaceful living of our brothers and sisters. This unit will continue to facilitate their needs and ensure their safety," he said. (CMBumatay, CMO, 8IB PA/PIA Bukidnon)