Operating troops of the AFP in Zamboanga and Misamis Occidental have been reported going around villages and communities with no face masks, potentially exposing peasant and Lumad residents to Covid-19. In complete disregard of the residents’ health, the soldiers conducted gambling and drinking sessions, and even spearheaded cockfights in the communities amid the pandemic.
These soldiers are part of the hundreds of troopers of the AFP Western Mindanao Command (WesMinCom) who continue to defy the ceasefire orders of their commander-in-chief Rodrigo Duterte by proceeding with focused military operations in Zamboanga Peninsula Region and parts of Misamis Occidental beyond March 19.
Despite the unilateral ceasfire declaration issued by the GRP last March 19, Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, commander of the WesMinCom ordered troops to conduct combat operations.
Thirty-seven (37) barangays are under intense military operations under the cover of “Covid-19 information drives.” Of 29 barangays in Kabasalan City, Zamboanga Sibugay, seven (7) are under occupation by elements of the 44th IB. The 10th IB has since hounded barangays in five municipalities of Misamis Occidental.
On top of the operations, a squad of the 44th IB ransacked the house of a Lumad peasant named Boy Tupaw on the last week of March. The soldiers robbed Tupaw of his money and even fired shots at his chickens.
On the night of April 1, the 44th IB attacked four members of the New People’s Army in Sitio Sikatuna, Barangay Natan, Diplahan in Zamboanga Sibugay while gathering supplies. “The AFP clearly violated Duterte’s declaration for a [Suspension of Offensive Military Operations] SOMO and [Suspension of Offensive Police Operations] SOPO,” Ka Mario Jose, spokesperson of the NPA in Zamboanga Peninsula stated.
“The militarist regime has unleashed the recently baked ‘Bayanihan laban sa Covid-19’ as the new face of martial rule,” added Ka Mario.