Civilian casualties mere “collateral damage” to JTF Storm air strikes ––NDF-EV

The National Democratic Front-Eastern Visayas today vehemently condemns the Joint Task Force Storm of the Armed Forces of the Philippines for carrying out air strikes near civilian communities in Brgy. Capotoan, Las Navas, Northern Samar in the early morning of October 26.

The military’s air strikes which were targeting a unit of the New People’s Army struck the farms of at least 13 families, destroying their houses, harvests of rice, and other private belongings, according to initial reports.  After the bombings, soldiers on board a military helicopter then indiscriminately strafed at farmlands using a machine gun. In fear for their safety, at least 12 families from Brgy. Capotoan have fled their homes and evacuated to nearby barangays Paco and El Empon and to the town proper. Meanwhile, troops continue to surround the barrios as military choppers hover above the area.

By their own admission, the AFP made no mistake in their target. They fully intended to drop at least three 500-pound bombs onto farmlands only around a kilometer away from the nearest barrio. They even indiscriminately fired at the area as if to make sure they hit their target. The people they ““swore”” to protect are mere collateral damage to their pipe-dream of destroying the NPA.

But despite the air strikes and their month-long massive combat operations in Las Navas — operations estimated to cost P6 million worth of public funds — the 500-strong troops of the 20th Infantry Battalion and the 81st Division Reconnaissance Company failed to completely defeat a single unit of the NPA. What they won instead were casualties of at least 11 dead and three wounded. What they succeeded in doing is physically abusing residents and passersby, illegally detaining them, forcing them to join their operations and attend to their wounded, and driving them out of their homes and farms. What they gained were the masses’ deepening hatred of the AFP and its fascist commander Rodrigo Duterte.

The NDF-EV stands with the people of Las Navas in their condemnation of JTF Storm and the wanton rights abuses of the AFP. They must hold the AFP and Duterte accountable for these attacks, and for redirecting millions of pesos of public funds from meaningful democratic reforms towards military operations that leave civilian casualties in their wake. In the midst of these intensifying attacks, the people of Eastern Visayas must form the strongest unity to defeat the anti-people JTF Storm. Their full support of people’s war will frustrate the Duterte regime’s Oplan Kapayapaan and oust Duterte to finally end his terror.