The peasant masses in hinterland villages of Central Panay have cause to cheer after the New People’s Army (NPA) mounted a series of harassment operations against the operating troops of the 12th IB, a notorious unit which has been terrorizing barrio folk in the towns of Calinog, Iloilo and Tapaz, Capiz since July. The 12th IB is under the command of the 301st Brigade-Philippine Army.
The harassment operations were carried out against troops involved in so-called Retooled Community Support Program (RCSP) in Barangay Tacayan in July 22 and in Barangay Roosevelt, both in Tapaz, on August 9. A soldier was killed and two wounded. Red fighters also fired at soldiers stationed at the bunkhouse of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Barangay Masaroy, Calinog on September 16. The next day, an NPA unit set off a command-detonated bomb against soldiers resting on the roadside of Barangay Binulosan Piqueño of the same town.
According to Ismael Garcia, spokesperson of the NPA-Central Panay (Mount Baloy Command), the operations were in response to complaints lodged by the masses suffering from abuses and atrocities committed by 12th IB troops.
Prior to the harassment operations, soldiers took away several home-made shotguns which farmers use against criminals and cattle rustlers. Soldiers then faked an encounter against what they said were five Red fighters at Sapa Bidang in Sitio Igang, Barangay Siya, Tapaz, causing unwarranted tension among the people.
Residents of Tapaz barangays particularly in Tacayan, Acuña, Roosevelt, Aglinab, Lahug and Katipunan; and Masaroy, Garangan, Marandig, Caratagan and Binulosan Piqueño in Calinog reported intimidation and harassment by government soldiers. They cited cases where several civilians were forced by the 12th IB to surrender as “NPA supporters.”
Soldiers also occupied civilian structures such as schools, barangay halls, health centers and several houses. They subjected residents to interrogation, threats, surveillance and other forms of pressure. Several residents also had their house ransacked and their crops destroyed.
Garcia said local residents complained that the soldiers and visiting police personnel enter their communities without face masks and face shields and mingled with the locals in complete disregard of social distancing and other health protocols.
Amid the pandemic and grave economic crisis, government soldiers even promote irresponsible partying and drinking of alcohol. In one barrio, soldiers threw a dance party and enjoined people to drink. This resulted to a brawl among several drunken residents. #