Military operations traumatize Lacub children

National Solidarity Mission Update 3: Lacub children affected by military operations, military encampment near school

A helicopter flying above the school ground was among the disturbing images drawn by the students. Many of them recalled that their classes were often disturbed because of the ear- deafening sound of the helicopter that land and bring supplies to the soldiers encamped near their school.

These were some of the images sketched by some 60 Grade 5 and 6 pupils of the Bantugo Central School who underwent psychosocial first aid conducted by members of Salinlahi and the Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC) as part of the National Solidarity Mission in Lacub, Abra. Noticeably, most of the children skipped the military detachment in their drawings. Salinlahi-CRC facilitators said it may be due to fear of talking about the detachment and that children naturally draw “happy things”.

The schoolchildren were among those affected by the military operation in Lacub, Abra on Sept. 4 and 5. At the height of the military operation on Sept. 5, members of the 41st Infantry Battalion, Philippine Army, stationed at a detachment in Sitio Bantugo, Poblacion, Lacub fired weapons towards Talampac Proper and Pacoc, Talampac. An M203 shell was found in the farming area of Bobon. Said detachment is on the elementary and high school grounds, separated only by a basketball court and a volleyball court. The volleyball and basketball courts where the students play are near the military’s helipad and a few meters away from the military detachment.

On Sept. 6, parents decided not to send their children to school for fear of another military action. School authorities were forced to suspend classes for almost two weeks, as students were no longer coming to school.

Photo from http://www.karapatan.org

During the psychosocial first aid, the students talked about the gunshots they heard. Two of the pupils who joined the psychosocial first aid were children of those used by the military as human shields. The children knew of the word torture. Some of the students said they saw the mutilated bodies of the NPA members, without eyes and broken arms. Another boy said every time he passes by the covered court at the municipal hall, heis reminded of the dead bodies lying on the court.

In a group discussion, some elementary teachers told NSM delegates that while they, too, feared for their lives;they had no choice but to report to school despite the absence of most of their students. The teachers said they await the LGUs response to the parents’ petition to remove the 41st IB detachment near the school premises. The teachers are aware of the Department of Education’s memorandum to the Department of National Defense. But, they wonder why the local government has not acted on the petition.

In 2011, when the detachment was set up near the school, the parents and the local people’s organization, Tulbek (Tignayan dagititi Umili ti Lacub Bantayan Ekolohiya ken Kinabaknang), immediately passed a petition to the local government expressing opposition and their desire for the military to pull out of the community, anticipating incidents such as what happened in Sept. 5.  In April this year, the LGU denied receipt of the petition letter.

After the psychosocial first aid, Salinlahi-CRC facilitators said the children expressed fear of the dangers posed by the existence of a military detachment near their school.

International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines. The ICHRP is a global network of organizations based outside of the Philippines, committed to campaigning for human rights and Filipino people's rights.