The escalating human rights abuses in Samar provinces, linked to a rising trend of military operations in peasant communities, has roused the New People’s Army (NPA) in Eastern Visayas to launch tactical offensives which left at least eleven (11) soldiers dead, according to the Efren Martires Command of the NPA in Eastern Visayas.
In two separate statements, the offensives were carried out by the NPA Silvio Pajares Command (NPA-SPC) in the towns of Gamay, Palapag, and Lapinig in Northern Samar and the joint forces of the NPA Jorge Bolito Command (NPA-JBC) and the NPA Southwest-Eastern Samar (Sergio Lobina) Subregional Command in Basey, Samar.
At around 1:00 in the morning, July 24, a detachment of the 52nd Infantry (CAFGU) Battalion of the Philippine Army (IBPA) in Brgy. Potong, Lapinig, Northern Samar was fired at by ten (10) NPA fighters leaving three soldiers dead and destroying four makeshift camp huts. The detachment commander was severely injured while its troops fired back hitting none from the side of the rebels, said the NPA-SPC.
Meanwhile, in a inter-guerilla front NPA operation of the Jorge Bolito Command and Sergio Lobina Command in the barrios of Bulao, Baloog and Mabini in Basey, Samar last July 24 and 27, one soldier from the 87th IBPA was killed, four (4) were wounded and three (3) more soldiers were hit during the attack.
A military camp hut being constructed several meters away from the barrio center of Brgy. Mabini was set ablaze on July 31, at around 9:00 in the morning, by a team of NPA fighters. The soldiers, who were at the village center during the incident, indiscriminately fired back, the NPA-SLC reported.
In Northern Samar, another detachment commander of the 52nd IBPA in Brgy. Bangon, Gamay, Northern Samar, identified by the NPA as ‘Sgt. Falconete’ was killed along with five (5) other soldiers in another NPA offensive last July 29, at around 11:00 in the evening.
The detachment commander of the 52nd IB in Brgy. Cawang, Palapag, Northern Samar, was also killed in a separate operation.
Meanwhile, in an earlier statement this week, the Philippine National Police (PNP) Eastern Visayas Regional Director Chief Supt. Elmer Beltejar said that “(t)he incident of harassment is alarming because it injured soldiers and policemen, but we are more than prepared to face them.”
After Beltejar’s statement, various guerilla fronts in the region launched a series of offensives against government forces and installations, just days after President Rodrigo Duterte’s war declaration against the rebels. Also in protest to imposing and extending Martial Law in Mindanao, the NPA was ordered by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) to launch tactical offensives in the entire archipelago.
“In the face of the US-Duterte regime’s martial law declaration in Mindanao, the necessity of waging revolutionary armed struggle becomes ever clearer,” said the CPP.
‘Offensives a response to HRVs perpetrated by state forces’
The AFP has reportedly been harassing civilians, mostly farmers, in several towns in the region. The municipal farmers organization Kapunungan han Basaynon nga Parag-uma (KBP) in Basey reported that soldiers of the 87th IBPA have been encamped in a school in Brgy. Mabini, Basey, Samar.
In an open letter, the farmer’s group decries several cases of sexual harassments, destruction of crops, recruiting of teenagers, 18 years old below, to become members of CAFGU.
The military presence in the barrio has also disrupted classes in schools causing a one-week suspension of classes in the sitios of Burabod and Bagte of Brgy. Mabini, Basey, Samar.
Teachers and students of Las Navas National High School in Northern Samar also shared on Facebook how their classrooms were converted into “military camps” by elements of the 20th IBPA, headed by a certain Col. Noli Lapizar.
Soldiers were camping in the school for a longer time since May this year, according to reports received by the teachers group Alliance of Concerned Teachers – Eastern Visayas.
Reports say that students are forced to conduct classes in tents outside their school buildings.
Last July 23, a peasant-leader and a member of the local farmers group Asosasyon han Kablas nga Parag-uma ha Can-avid (AKP-Can-avid) in Eastern Samar Belinda Capacite was arrested and charged with robbery for allegedly being a collector of revolutionary tax.
On the same day, Samahan han Gudti nga Parag-uma ha Sinirangan Bisayas (SAGUPA – SB) Secretary General Nestor Lebico was tailed by two suspicious elements in civilian clothes after attending an assembly of the Northern Samar Small Farmers’ Association (NSSFA) in Catarman, Northern Samar.
On August 5, members of a CAFGU unit had interrogated a farmer of Brgy. Bugho, Pinabacdao, Samar. The farmer, identified as Roger Cabigayan, was threatened with arrest and forced to join the CAFGU. He was initially tagged as “rebel supporter” and brought to a military camp for interrogation. He was released on August 6 after almost twenty farmers guarded and waited for him outside the camp.
‘Rebels ready to fight Martial Law, rights abuses nationwide’
Two days before his SONA, President Duterte already announced that he is no longer interested to pursue the peace talks with the National Democratic Front (NDF).
“Let us renew the fighting for another 50 years”, Duterte said in his speech addressed to CPP founding chairman Jose Maria Sison.
NPA-National Operations Command spokesperson Jorge “Ka Oris” Madlos said in a statement that “the NPA can surpass its peak strength and advance the revolution towards victory” even under the present regime. He then congratulated the NPA units all over the country for successful offensives.
“This is the response of the revolutionary movement to the Duterte regime’s complete surrender and servility to the US imperialists, its wars of death and destruction and its attacks against people’s national democratic aspirations”, Ka Oris said.
The NPA-Southwestern-Eastern Samar Subregional Command declared in their statement that they will continue defending the communities against attacks on their rights, recognizing the present administration’s “declaration of war against the people.”
The CPP-NPA-NDF has been waging a protracted people’s war since the 1960s against the government, leading a revolutionary movement for national democracy and socialism.###