AFP deploys 2 battalions to Masbate
Two battalions are currently deployed in Masbate (population: 908,920) in a desperate attempt to quell the people’s struggle and defeat the New People’s Army (NPA) in the island. It was reported in February that the transfer of the 96th IB to the island from Camarines Norte has been completed. This brings the soldier-to-civilian ratio to 6.6 soldiers for every 10,000 population in the island, as opposed to 2.7 healthworkers per 10,000 individuals in recent years.
The 96th IB’s deployment purportedly covers 300 barangays in the island which are alleged election hotspots. In reality, this aims to entrench the military’s domination in many parts of the island. The battalion was formerly deployed in Camarines Norte.
The 96th IB has a bloody record while under the 902nd Ibde covering Camarines Norte and several towns in Camarines Sur. Three farmers were tortured, killed and buried in shallow graves in Ragay, Camarines Sur in May 2018. A father and his son were also killed by this unit in Labo, Camarines Norte in March 2020.
With the battalion’s transfer to Masbate, violations of human rights in the province are set to intensify. According to the records of the National Democratic Front-Bicol, 74 of 229 victims of extrajudicial killings from 2016 to January 2022 were recorded in Masbate. This is the highest number of cases in the region.
The masses of Masbate are already suffering from the presence of the 2nd IB, a unit of the 31st IB, the 93rd Civil Military Operations Company, a military intelligence company, and around three battalions of police forces.