NPA geared to Covid-19 response even without ceasefire

Even before the Duterte regime declared a ceasefire, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) had already issued directives to all revolutionary forces to carry out a mass campaign to encourage collective action to respond comprehensively and extensively to the threat of a Covid-19 outbreak. Duterte issued the GRP’s unilateral ceasefire declaration in the evening of March 18 and will lapse on April 15. The CPP and Na­tio­nal De­mocra­tic Front of the Phi­lip­pi­nes negotiating panel questioned the real intent of Duterte’s ceasefire declaration.

Prof. Jo­se Ma. Si­son, senior consultant of the NDFP to the peace negotiations said that, Duterte’s declaration is premature, if not insincere and fake. Additionally, it was issued after the regime imposed a total lockdown in Luzon to cover-up its inefficiencies in addressing the threat of the Covid-19 pandemic.

With or without a ceasefire, NPA Red fighters have already been directed to step up efforts to render social, economic, medical and public health services to the people. They are working closely with local health committees in barrios and communities.

Whether Duterte’s ceasefire order will supercede previous orders to mount all-out war to crush the NPA remains to be seen, said the CPP. Meanwhile, it advised all NPA units to remain on alert against AFP attacks and immediately report current combat operations within their respective areas. The CPP will issue a ceasefire declaration when there is sufficient basis for it.

According to recent reports, the AFP and PNP are conducting intense combat, surveillance and psywar operations in Abra, Mt. Province, Quezon, Min­do­ro, Mas­ba­te, Sor­so­gon, Ca­ma­ri­nes Sur, Ca­piz, Sa­mar, Neg­ros, Bu­kid­non, South Co­ta­ba­to, Zam­boa­nga and other provinces.
On March 18, the local NPA command reported that the 61st IB deployed an additional 15 regular and CAFGU troops at its detachment in Barangay Katipunan, Tapaz. The soldiers claimed that the reinforcement will remain in the area until April 15 to purportedly contain the spread of Covid-19.

On March 19, the 31st IB conducted combat operations in several barangays of Barcelona and Bulusan in Sorsogon under the guise of “Community Support Program.” Soldiers continue to conduct reconnaissance operations and compel barangay watchmen to serve as guides and “human shields.”

Combat operations are also being conducted by the 403rd Brigade in Bukidnon. In particular, the NPA reported the presence of operating 8th IB and 1st Special Forces Battalion troopers in Barangay Busdi, Malaybalay City, and Mt. Kitanglad, respectively.
Widespread human rights violations also continue unabated. State forces arrested Lumad leader Gloria Tumalon in Lianga, Surigao del Sur on March 20 and civilian Camilo Bucoy in Zamboanga Sibugay on March 19.

Prior to the GRP’s issuance of a unilateral ceasefire declaration, AFP and PNP elements went on a killing spree and perpetrated many cases of abuses.

On March 16, they killed Mar­lon Mal­dos in Tag­bi­la­ran City, Bo­hol. Maldos was the artistic director of the Bol-Anong Artis­ta nga may Di­wang Da­go­hoy (Ban­si­wag). Maldos directed performances that depict the struggle of poor peasants. Before the killing, he was repeatedly subjected to Red-tagging by 47th IB elements.

In Lanao del Sur, elements of the 4th ID, 2nd Mecha­nized Infantry Bri­ga­de arrested Te­re­si­ta Naul, a member of Ka­ra­pa­tan-Northern Min­da­nao, on March 15 at her house in the town of La­la. She was slapped with trumped up charges of kidnapping, illegal detention and arson.
Meanwhile, on February 27, eight T’bo­lis were detained by 27th IB elements in La­ke Se­bu, South Co­ta­ba­to, and were coerced to admit that they are NPA members. Ba­yan-Socsksar­gen reported that military operations continue unabated in Bla­an and T’bo­li. Lumad minorities are harassed and their homes are ransacked. Their ancestral lands have long been targeted by San Mi­gu­el Cor­po­ra­ti­on for its carbon mining project.

In Davao de Oro, administrators of the Commu­nity Technical Col­le­ge of Sout­he­as­tern Min­da­nao, a Lumad school in Maco, reported that the military summoned their students’ parents and forced them to make their children leave the school.

In Cagayan Valley, the 17th IB have been occupying the communities at Si­tio La­gom, Ba­ra­ngay Li­pa­tan since February. The military put up checkpoints along major roads in the communities. They also imposed a curfew and obliged residents to ask for permission from the military for all their businesses.

Residents reported that they are banned from going to their farms and the market unless permitted by the military. A farmer was also held at gunpoint while while gathering corn for milling. Even pregnant women and the elderly who are bound to get their pension are barred by soldiers.

Residents complained that they were already preparing for harvest but were prohibited by the military. They were rounded up by soldiers, and were threatened and accused of being NPA supporters. They were interrogated and coerced to “surrender their guns” and admit to being “NPA fighter.” The 17th IB also occupied the houses, chapel, and elementary school in the area. Around this period, soldiers illegally arrested Fran­sing So­lancho and another elderly person who has difficulty seeing and walking.