The National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) called out National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) executive committee member Luis Jalandoni for another attempt at spinning information that the Philippine government has violated the unilateral ceasefire amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“Patuloy ang paninira at pagbabaliktad ng CPP-NPA-NDF sa gobyerno ng Pilipinas sa iba’t ibang bansa at mga internasyunal na organisasyon na nagdudulot ng negatibong epekto sa mata at pakikitungo ng mga dayuhan (The Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front continues to defame and discredit the Philippine Government to other nations as well as international organizations. It results in the negative perception and treatment of the Philippines by the global community),” the task force said on its Facebook account.
In an online news report, the NDFP claimed that the Philippine government has violated the ceasefire between the two parties, alleging that government troops launched 13 attacks from March 16 to April 19 affecting almost 200 villages and nearly 100 towns.
“The New People’s Army has never complied with the global ceasefire appealed by the United Nations. The communist terrorist group continues to attack, kill, and harass indigenous peoples, indigenous communities, and military troops,” the NTF-ELCAC said.
The clashes between Army troops and the NPA only happen, it said, when the military defends and protects its people against the violence of the latter.
Timeline of attacks
On March 16, President Rodrigo Duterte announced a ceasefire between government troops and the communist NPA rebels as well as the suspension of military operations (SOMO).
The SOMO was ordered so soldiers can aid in the transport operations of medical supplies, food, and essential workforce as strict measures are imposed to address the Covid-19 pandemic.
Shortly after, the Philippine Army slammed the communist NPA for putting in danger the lives of villagers in Agusan del Sur by planting two improvised explosive devices (IEDs) near their community.
The Army’s 3rd Special Forces Battalion (3SFBn) said on March 19 that the IEDs were retrieved after civilians in Barangay New Salem, Bayugan City, reported the presence of the bombs to a military detachment in the area.
“Our explosive ordinance disposal (EOD) team was immediately dispatched in the area and recovered two pieces of 12-kilogram grapeshot pressurized type of improvised anti-personnel mine,” 3SFBn civil-military operations officer, 1st Lt. Krisjuper Andreo Punsalan said.
Only four days after the call for the ceasefire, on March 20, Indigenous People Mandatory Representative (IPMR) of San Miguel town in Surigao del Sur province, Councilor Rico Maca called for help after NPA rebels hacked to death Zaldy Ibañez, a farmer, and Datu Bernandino Montenegro Astudillo, the tribal chieftain of Magroyong.
“Barangay Magroyong was once considered an NPA lair. But efforts by the government through information drives won back the residents and declared their separation from the rebels,” Maca said.
He said the decision of the Manobos in the area to declare the NPA persona non grata had angered the communist rebels.
On March 30, the rebels who killed Magroyong’s tribal chieftain surfaced and admitted responsibility for his death.
However, the Army said the rebels came up with “another lie to justify their deed.”
NPA’s Guerrilla Front 30 (GF-30) spokesperson Imelda Rambuyod, alias “Sandara Sidlakan,” admitted the group’s killing of Astudillo and Ibañez.
Rambuyod accused Astudillo and Ibañez of being responsible for the rape of a certain Palay Astudillo.
Brig. Gen. Maurito Licudine, commander of the Army’s 402nd Infantry Brigade, said local residents lambasted the rebels for “fabricating stories” to justify the killings.
A day after the NPA’s admission to the killing, Palay Astudillo, the granddaughter of Datu Bernandino Astudillo, came out in a video denying the accusation.
On April 7, the 301st Infantry Brigade was attacked while in the vicinity of Sitio Agilan, Panuran village to provide security to the people.
Pfc. Mark Nemis of Madalag, Aklan succumbed to a fatal gunshot wound in the head after a 20-minute firefight with the Baloy Platoon of the Central Front, Kilusang Rehiyon Panay.
On April 8, the 20th Infantry Battalion reported that 15 members of the communist terrorist group forcefully collected food from residents of Lakandula village in Las Navas, Northern Samar.
On April 12, Davao Oriental Governor Nelson Dayanghirang condemned the violent attack of five NPA members who opened fire on soldiers belonging to the 67th Infantry Battalion while conducting security patrol at Barangay Mahan-ub on April 11.
He said this serves as another “[proof that] the government must no longer talk or make arrangements with CPP-NPA”.
On April 13, the local government of Balangiga, Eastern Samar issued a resolution declaring the NPA as ‘persona non grata’ after the rebels “confiscated” relief goods from poor families in one of its far-flung villages.
On April 14, the most recent, NPA rebels killed 34-year old Wilson Estar Behing, another member of the Manobo tribe and member of Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU).
He was attacked while clearing weeds on his farm to prepare for planting in Sitio Baroboan, Barangay Carromata, San Miguel in Butuan City.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque appealed to the armed groups and the opposition to stop the attacks as the government is still occupied with the public health crisis.
“Nakikiusap kami, mga NPA (New People’s Army), lahat ng oposisyon, lahat ng kalaban ng gobyerno, isantabi niyo muna po ang politika ngayong meron tayong krisis na umiiral sa ating bayan (We appeal to the NPA, opposition, and the enemies of the government, set aside politics amid the health crisis in the country),” Roque said in a virtual presser.
Roque made the plea as he slammed the supposed move by communist insurgents to stall the government’s relentless efforts to combat Covid-19.
The NTF-ELCAC was created under Executive Order 70 to help push for a whole-of-nation approach in ending communist armed insurgency. (Christine Cudis, PNA)