COVID-19 crisis pretext to step up military attacks

The Apolinario Gatmaitan Command (AGC) of the New People’s Army (NPA) in Negros said in a statement today that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) could only peddle “lies upon patent lies” in the latter’s attempt to explain to the public the recent armed incident between elements of the 94th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IBPA) and a guerilla platoon belonging to the Mt. Cansermon Command (MCC-South Central Negros Guerilla Front) in the hinterlands of Himamaylan City, Negros Occidental where, according to reports, three government soldiers had been killed and four others wounded.
The AGC said that the AFP is taking advantage of the Corona Virus Disease (COVID) crisis to discredit and step up military attacks on the revolutionary armed movement which is currently on ceasefire status giving full focus on its health and socio-economic campaigns with peasant mass organizations in the countryside.
Combat operation not humanitarian mission
According to AGC spokesperson Ka Juanito Magbanua, contrary to the official statement of the 303rd Infantry Brigade, the army unit that had engaged the NPA in Barangay Carabalan on April 19 was never assigned to provide security to Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) personnel who were scheduled to distribute social amelioration (SAP) aid in the area on the same day.
“How could these soldiers possibly be on a so-called humanitarian mission to ensure the conduct of a DSWD activity in the village center of Barangay Carabalan when in fact they were nowhere near the said venue but were instead marching in combat mode somewhere deep in Sitio Kamuag or at least ten rugged kilometers away?” Magbanua said.
In a separate statement, MCC spokesperson Ka Dionesio Magbuelas said that the same AFP soldiers, dispatched at least in two columns, had already been on full and sustained military field operation in the interior barangays of Himamaylan City for more than a whole week prior to April 19, which effectively included as well the remaining days of the government’s recently expired ceasefire declaration.
No ambush, no CPP-NPA ceasefire violation
Magbuelas also clarified that the Himamaylan City armed incident was not an NPA ambush or a premeditated tactical offensive on AFP troops.
“What transpired, rather, to be precise, was a failed raid by the 94th IB on guerrilla forces in their [NPAs] temporary physical base,” said Magbuelas. “The AFP attack was unsuccessful because the NPA Red fighters and commanders effectively performed active defense.”
Magbuelas added that the said NPA platoon was on much lower ground than its attacking adversaries and, as such, an ambush operation would have been impossible to execute.
According to the MCC, it has already submitted its initial report to higher operational commands of the NPA citing that there had been no provisions in the current unilateral ceasefire declaration of the CPP-NPA that had been violated in the April 19 active defense action.
Investigate AFP instead, cooperate with people’s organizations in COVID fight
The National Democratic Front – Negros Island meanwhile called the House Resolution condemning the alleged April 19 ambush of the NPA, signed by all district and partylist representatives of the two Negros provinces, as very unfortunate.
Ka Bayani Obrero, NDF-Negros spokesperson, said that the Negros congressmen should have first made a thorough study of the incident before drafting the resolution.
“The Negros representatives should know better than relying, hook, line and sinker, on reports supplied by AFP publicists that are not only biased but downright  dishonest and meant to deceive,” Obrero said.
What the solons should pass instead, according to Obrero, is a resolution to investigate military abuse, fake surrenders or any such gross manifestations in their districts of the AFP’s overbearing fascist presence and impingement on civilian authority using the COVID-19 emergency as convenient pretext.
Obrero said that it is high time that an inquiry is conducted as well on the highly irregular circumstance of the military having blanket discretion over billions of public funds.
The NDF-Negros also encouraged the Negros solons and their staff to work closely with credible scientific experts with social conscience, local government officials with good public service records and specially with the various civil society groups in pushing for a genuinely medical and social COVID-19 response.
The Negros solons and their staff “should likewise explore providing assistance of any kind to the health and emergency food production campaigns in the guerilla zones being carried out by NDFP allied organizations and organs of Red political power,” Obrero said.