Updated report on AFP aerial bombing and strafing, and shelling
Download this report in PDF format
Introduction to the dataset
The Aerial Bombing, Aerial Strafing and Shelling Dataset maintained by the CPP Information Bureau, updated as of July 15, 2022, contains information about 151 incidents of aerial bombing and strafing, and artillery shelling from May 2017 to April 2022. The data is based on reports of units of the NPA (both publicly available statements, and internal reports), as well as news stories based on incidents publicized by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
The actual number of incidents is estimated to be much bigger considering that many incidents of aerial bombing and strafing, and artillery shelling were not reported. Of the total number of incidents, 108 involve aerial bombings, 66 involve artillery shelling, and 49, aerial strafing. The number of aerial strafing is likely much bigger considering that almost every round of aerial bombing is followed through with rounds of aerial strafing, but are not mentioned in the statements or reports.
The numbers of ammunition spent is also an understatement of the actual number of used by the AFP. In the dataset, we recorded only “1” bomb in at least 50 incidents where there are no details as to the number of bombs dropped (“nambomba”). We also recorded “1” in at least 26 incidents of artillery shelling where reports lacked detail (“nanganyon”).
“Bombs” refer to either 250-kg or 125-kg bombs which are dropped using FA-50 jet fighters, OV-10 bomber planes or the newer Super Tucano aircraft; or smaller rockets fired from Augusta Westland or MG520 attack helicopters can carry and fire six rockets successively in one round of bombing. “Artillery shells” are typically 105-mm rounds fired from howitzers (cannons). “Strafing rounds” refer to the number of incidents where there are reports of (aerial) strafing, typically using 50-caliber machineguns mounted on helicopters or jetfighters.
Majority of the incidents recorded are related to AFP counterinsurgency operations against the NPA. Some incidents of bombing and strafing against Moro rebel fighters in the Bangsamoro areas are also included in the records. The 5-month bombing operations of the AFP that pulverized Marawi City in 2017 is not included in this dataset.
The dataset (in csv format) can be downloaded and reviewed.
We welcome additional information, as well as suggestions to help further improve this report.
Communist Party of the Philippines
The following are some highlights in this report:
- Since 2017, the AFP has dropped at least 591 bombs against the NPA, only 109 of which actually hit an NPA camp, putting the accuracy of the AFP’s so-called “surgical strikes” at 18.44%.
- The AFP and PNP suffered more casualties than the NPA as a result of AFP aerial bombing and shelling since 2017.
- At least 10 civilians have been killed in AFP aerial bombings and shelling.
- More than 80% of AFP bombing operations were carried out indiscriminately without an apparent target, 35% of which hit the vicinity of civilian communities and farms. Only 6% clearly aimed at an NPA camp.
- As of the first half of 2022, the NPA has yet to suffer any casualties.
- Last year, the AFP dropped at least 200 bombs. As of this year, it has dropped only around 52 bombs.
Since 2017, the number of aerial bombing and strafing, and shelling operations carried out by the AFP have steadily increased year on year, with the highest recorded last year with 56 incidents.
The AFP carried out aerial strikes in at least 36 or 43.9% of 82 Philippine provinces. Bukidnon suffered the most number of aerial bombing and shelling (22), followed by Surigao del Sur, Agusan del Sur, Agusan del Norte, North Cotabato, Northern Samar, Davao del Norte, Cagayan, Quezon, Negros Occidental, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, Camarines Sur and Mountain Province. (see Appendix).
Of all incidents of aerial bombing and strafing, and shelling, 55.9% were carried out by the AFP in Mindanao, 24.3% in the Visayas, and 19.7% in Luzon.
Based on the recorded information, the AFP dropped at least 591 bombs, fired 589 artillery shells, and carried out at least 74 rounds of aerial strafing.
Of the total number of bombs dropped by the AFP, 67.51% (399) were dropped in Mindanao, while 16.41% (97) were dropped in the Visayas, and 16.07% (95) in Luzon.
Of the total number of aerial strikes, only 10 operations (6.6%) actually hit an NPA camp, 3 hit abandoned NPA camps, and seven (4.6%) hit military and police forward positions. Up to 82.44% (or 126) of the aerial strikes and shelling were carried out without clear targets, usually in forested areas, with close to 35% (or 44 strikes) hitting civilian communities, nearby farms–both lowland and swidden (kaingin), causing damage to civilian property and infrastructure (crops, schools, shed, religious building).
In the ten NPA camps hit by the AFP’s aerial strikes, 109 bombs were dropped, i.e. the AFP used at least 10 bombs for every guerrilla camp it targeted. Overall, the accuracy of AFP aerial bombs is at 18.44%. This means, for every five bombs dropped by the AFP since 2017, less than one has hit an NPA camp or unit.
Based on the dataset, at least 144 people were killed and 39 wounded in aerial strikes and shelling carried out by the AFP since 2017. Of the total number killed in AFP air strikes, 68 (47.2%) were the AFP’s own forces who were inadvertently hit by their own bombs; 66 (45.8%) were NPA Red fighters; and at least 10 were civilians. Of those wounded, 20 (or 51%) are police personnel, 15 (38%) are Red fighters; and 4 (10%) are civilians.
The worst incidents of AFP aerial strikes suffered by the NPA were in Dolores, Eastern Samar (August 16, 2021) in which 22 Red fighters were killed; in Gingoog City, Misamis Oriental (May 10, 2020) where 10 were killed; and in Miag-ao, Iloilo (December 1, 2021) where 8 were killed. In terms of year, the NPA suffered the worse casualties in 2021 (48 killed) and 2020 (18). The NPA suffered no casualties from 2017 to 2019, and none during the first half of 2022.
AFP and PNP Casualties
On the other hand, the highest number of casualties suffered by AFP units are in Palimbang town during a series of aerial strikes (December 22-26, 2020, where 21 soldiers were killed), and Kalamansig town (February 5, 2019, 20 soldiers killed), both in Sultan Kudarat province. On September 28, 2021, a platoon of the PNP Regional Peace and Security Battalion (RPSB) carrying out combat operations was hit by AFP aerial bombs resulting in at least 20 casualties. Most of the AFP’s aerial strikes that hit their own personnel were carried out during pursuit operations against the NPA.
One of the worst incidents of aerial bombing which hit civilians was the early morning bombing of a Moro community in Maguing, Lanao del Sur on March 1, 2022, where at least five civilians, including children, were killed. The bombing damaged the local mosque, as well as homes and farms.
Another incident of aerial bombing where civilians were directly hit happened on January 29, 2022 when at least five bombs were dropped between 1 and 2 in the morning on a community of small miners in Barangay Santa Clara, Gonzaga, Cagayan. The community is located on the river banks deep in the forest. Reports indicate that there is a strong likelihood that military intelligence based on data gathered by drones mistook the community as an NPA camp. The number of civilian casualties have yet to be determined.
More than 10,339 families (around 60,000 people) were forced to evacuate or leave their homes during the aerial strikes and bombing operations of the AFP. In terms of province, the highest number of evacuees were recorded in Oriental Mindoro (3,000), Bukidnon (2,200), Maguindanao (1,600), Occidental Mindoro (1,200) and Davao de Oro (1,050).
From the observations above, we can draw some key conclusions:
- The aerial bombing and strafing, and artillery shelling of the AFP is indiscriminate. Up to 82.89% of its aerial strikes and shelling operations had no clear targets, more than 35% of which dropped near civilian communities, farms and infrastructure, causing damage to civilian property and resources, endangering the lives of civilians, resulting in widespread trauma and fear, and economic and social displacement.
- We can make the converse conclusion that the AFP’s aerial strikes are not accurate. Overall, since 2017, the AFP had to drop nine bombs and fire numerous rounds of artillery in order to kill one NPA Red fighter.
- The use of bombs and rockets are a disproportionate use of firepower. Temporary guerrilla camps of the NPA are not fortified with steel or concrete. Yet, in the 10 NPA camps hit by aerial strikes since 2017, the AFP dropped more than 10 bombs each causing superfluous killings and injuries.
Incidents of AFP aerial bombing and strafing, and shelling by year Year Incidents 2017 7 2018 14 2019 21 2020 39 2021 56 2022 14 Number of incidents of Aerial Bombing, Strafing and Shelling by Province Province Aerial Bombing Artillery Shelling Aerial Strafing Abra 2 0 0 Agusan del Norte 5 0 6 Agusan del Sur 5 3 1 Batangas 1 0 0 Bukidnon 22 10 12 Cagayan 5 0 3 Camarines Sur 3 0 2 Compostela Valley 1 2 0 Davao City 1 1 0 Davao Oriental 1 0 0 Davao de Oro 1 0 0 Davao del Norte 4 8 1 Eastern Samar 2 2 3 Iloilo 1 1 0 Isabela 1 0 1 Lanao del Sur 2 1 0 Leyte 1 0 0 Maguindanao 3 2 0 Masbate 2 0 1 Misamis Occidental 2 0 0 Misamis Oriental 2 1 1 Mountain Province 3 0 2 Negros Occidental 3 3 0 North Cotabato 4 3 3 Northern Samar 4 16 4 Occidental Mindoro 2 1 1 Oriental Mindoro 2 3 2 Pangasinan 1 0 1 Quezon 4 0 1 Samar 2 5 2 Saranggani 2 0 0 South Cotabato 1 0 0 Sultan Kudarat 3 1 0 Surigao del Sur 8 2 1 Zambales 1 0 0 Zamboanga del Sur 1 0 0 Distribution of number of incidents of aerial bombing and strafing, and shelling by island Island Incidents Luzon 30 Visayas 37 Mindanao 84 Ammunitions spent by AFP in aerial strikes and bombings Ammunition Count Bombs 591 Artillery Shells 589 Strafing Rounds 74 Number of casualties by group Group Killed Wounded AFP/PNP 68 20 NPA 66 15 Civilians 10 4 NPA casualties by year Year Killed Wounded 2017 0 0 2018 0 0 2019 0 0 2020 18 7 2021 48 8 2022 0 0 Number of families forced to evacuate due to AFP aerial bombing and strafing, and artillery shelling Province Incidents Families Oriental Mindoro 1 3000 Bukidnon 4 2200 Maguindanao 2 1600 Occidental Mindoro 2 1200 Compostela Valley 1 1000 Camarines Sur 2 430 Sultan Kudarat 1 260 Zambales 1 190 Saranggani 1 100 North Cotabato 1 100 Cagayan 1 60 Surigao del Sur 2 54 Davao de Oro 1 50 Davao Oriental 1 50 Zamboanga del Sur 1 45