Families in far-flung Abra villages worry that Covid-19 disease might reach their communities as soldiers from outside the province arrived to join local military forces in their continuing operations. This was revealed by New People’s Army (NPA)-Abra spokesperson Ka Florencio Baluga in a statement last April 9.
Baluga said that after the Duterte government’s declaration of a unilateral ceasefire last March 19, soldiers of the 24th IB were not pulled out. Instead, they were reinforced with troopers from outside Abra to continue operations in the towns of Lacub and Malibcong.
This led residents to express anxiety over the possibility of getting infected by the disease from operating troops in the military-occupied barangays of Mataragan, Duldulao, Gacab, Umnap, Buanao and Lat-ey in Malibcong. Lacub residents also expressed the same concerns.
On top of this, the lockdown has taken its toll on the people of peasant communities where a 24-hour curfew was imposed by the military. Residents’ movements are under close watch, with reports of human rights violations victimizing those who forage or tend to their farms.
In separate cases last March 30, two residents in Malibcong who went out of their homes were detained for hours by the 24th IB’s Bravo Coy. One even had soldiers’ rifles aimed at him.
Meanwhile, the military continues to charge community members as NPA supporters and members, as well as having them appear at the 24th IB camp to “surrender.”
Baluga also reported that while each household receive only 1-2 kilos of rice, soldiers have the gall to partake in the farmers’ harvest. Worse, planters are prohibited to sell their crops, even in neighboring villages. Because of the lockdown, Abra’s small storeowners, public transport drivers and miners also had their livelihoods disrupted.