Farming communities in South Quezon-Bondoc Peninsula (SQBP) know the horrors of the military only too well. Almost a decade ago, massive and brutal counterinsurgency operations mounted by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in their area caused the peasant masses untold sufferings. Human rights abuses ran rampant.
They thought they’ve seen the worst.
On February 5, the AFP’s brutality hit a new high, when peasant families in four towns were distressed with bombings and strafings by helicopter gunships.
According to Ka Cleo del Mundo of the New People’s Army (NPA)-Quezon, bombs and bullets rained for a week, targeting 22 villages in the towns of Buenavista, Catanauan, Mulanay, and San Narciso.
The attacks have disrupted the lives of more than 26,000 individuals, mostly coconut farmers. Also, students who locate their internet signal in the mountains have put off their online classes, added del Mundo. Before the bombings, the military ordered residents to evacuate.
The bombardment followed an armed encounter between the 85th IB and a unit of the NPA in Barangay Masaya, Buenavista on the same day. Two Red fighters were martyred in the firefight.
Aside from the aerial attacks, largescale ground operations are ongoing in 20 other villages in Catanauan, Lopez, General Luna, and Macalelon. An earlier report by the NPA in Southern Tagalog revealed that around 1,000 soldiers from the 201st Infantry Brigade and Calabarzon police have been scouring the communities since the last quarter of the previous year. Killings, arrests, and many other cases of abuse by the military have plagued residents in these villages.
The NPA-Quezon said further that the AFP Southern Luzon Command (Solcom) used the February 5 encounter as an excuse to test its new war machines. In January, Solcom chief Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade, Jr. boasted of new Black Hawk helicopters that come with .50 caliber machine guns and surveillance systems. These are part of the arms catalog delivered by the US in November and December 2020 which include wire-guided missiles, drone systems, and 500-pound bombs.
All of the 16 villages in Quezon included in the NTF-ELCAC’s Barangay Development Program that are supposed to have been “cleared” of the NPA are located in the SQ-BP area.
Because of its long history of peasant struggles and armed revolution in the heart of the “hacienda belt,” South Quezon-Bondoc Peninsula has been in the crosshairs of the AFP. Over the past years, regimes and military commanders have all failed in their effort to turn the SQBP area into their “trophy.” Now that the current regime intends to do the same, the NPA said that the AFP might as well be crying for the moon.