Villagers confront credit-grabbing army battalion in Bulusan, Sorsogon

Soldiers from the 31st IB drew flak for their attempt to take over the distribution of relief goods by local barangay officials in a village in Bulusan, Sorsogon on Tuesday, April 14. Reports reached the New People’s Army (NPA) in the province that village officials refused to hand over the said relief goods as these were solicited by village officials.

The NPA officers in the area remarked that the soldiers wanted to grab credit. “Gusto nilang palabasin sa mga tao na sa kanila galing ang mga relief goods.” (The soldiers wanted the residents to believe that the relief goods came from the AFP.)

The village officials asked that the name of their barangay be witheld fearing reprisals from the AFP troops.

The nearly month-long military lockdown has resulted in reduced incomes and food supply in most Bulusan villages. To alleviate the situation, barangay officials have raised relief goods for their constituents independently of the Mayor’s office.

Soldiers occupying the barangay under the so-called “Community Support Program” then demanded that the local executives hand over the goods. The soldiers wanted to take photos of each beneficiary. The village officials refused.

The 31st IB is currently under the command of Lt. Col. Eric H. Culvera.

The same report indicated that at least eight other villages in Bulusan are either occupied by the 31st IB or covered by its combat operations. This brings to 28 the number of military-occupied and patrolled villages in Sorsogon since GRP President Rodrigo Duterte declared a unilateral ceasefire supposedly in line with his government’s response to the Covid-19 disease.

In these villages, residents are banned from going their farms. A curfew from 5 p.m. to 6 a.m. is imposed, with limits for minors set earlier at 1 p.m.. The NPA said soldiers accosted a farmer on his way home from his farm.