By Rjay Zuriaga Castor

Photo: Philippine Daily Inquirer

CAPIZ, Philippines— Residents of a village in Tapaz town of Capiz province had left their homes and evacuated to the town proper, about 8 kilometers away or a four-hour walk.

In an interview with Bombo Radyo Roxas, Madgelyn Gedoria, an official of Barangay Lahug in Tapaz said about 72 households left their homes and evacuated to the town proper, following the killing of at least nine persons in simultaneous raids conducted by the Philippine National Police (PNP) at what were believed to be New People’s Army (NPA) hotspots in Iloilo and Capiz.

Residents, including women and children, brought their belongings while other residents who were left behind are staying at barangay’s daycare center since New Year’s Eve.

In an earlier interview, Lahug village chief Jobelyn Giganto said they were afraid of sleeping in their homes government forces stormed into houses of local Indigenous People (IP) leaders and forcibly arrested some occupants.

“We do not feel safe because they came in the night when we were asleep and we could not do anything but hide,” she said.

Church leaders and IPs’ groups are also calling for an investigation on the killing and the arrest of 16 others of the Tumandok or Panay-Bukidnon tribe in a coordinated police operation in the mountainous villages of Panay.

Meanwhile, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Western Visayas has started its own investigation amid an outcry from the community and family members of those who died and were arrested.

“We are saddened by the simultaneous killings that happened early morning of Dec. 30, 2020, in the upland barangays of Tapaz, Capiz, and Calinog, Iloilo,” according to a statement of the Capiz Archdiocesan Social Action Center (Casac).

The Casac cited initial reports that those who died were alleged members of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing New People’s Army (NPA).