“Naghulat lang gyud mi nga mahulogan mi og bomba!” (We were just waiting for a bomb to fall on us!)
This was the agonizing statement of one pregnant peasant woman after the series of dawn aerial bombardment by fascist AFP troops in La Paz, Agusan del Sur last week.
On April 6, 2021, between 4:30 to 5:30 am, two FA-50 fighter jets dropped three bombs each and subsequently rained .50 caliber machine gun fire in the forested areas of Brgy. Kasapa 2, close to the farms and houses of Lumad and peasants. As the fighter jets dropped bombed, a Cessna intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft flew overhead, later joined by two other unmanned aerial vehicles.
A few hours later, another bomber plane continued dropping bombs and strafed the area until midday. While no one was seriously hurt, the masses reported that some of their neighbors sustained bruises and minor injuries in trying to scramble to safety.
No NPA unit was in the area. The sheer gratuitous show of military force shocked not one Red fighter, but did manage to terrorize several poor Lumad and peasants–including elderly, pregnant women and children. The masses decry this useless spending of millions of public money which they say could have been used to help them make ends meet during this time of the pandemic.
Prior to the bombing incident, troops the 60th Infantry Battalion have already been on combat operations since February 28, which they commenced with three rounds of artillery fire directed at the same forested areas of Brgy. Kasapa 2. Residents in the area and adjacent barangays reported that around 600 regular combat personnel of the 60th IB and 26th IB, including paramilitaries CAFGU and Bagani, have swarmed the tri-boundary areas of La Paz, Loreto, and San Luis in Agusan del Sur, and Kapalong in Davao del Norte. The fascist goons harass locals, forcing them to “surrender” and forcibly recruiting them to join the Bagani or CAFGU.
These terroristic acts of AFP troops highlight the US-Duterte regime’s fascist nature in the face of the economic downturn due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Instead of giving relief and improving healthcare services, the regime instead chooses to channel foreign-borrowed funds toward extravagant military spending.
It also shows the cold indifference and criminal neglect of the regime. Displaying its lack of understanding of and insensitivity to the plight of Lumad and peasants, the AFP rained bombs and artillery fire over the area at a crucial time when the masses were busy trying to ensure they were able to plant corn or rice for the panuig, the traditional planting season between April and May where the harvest is usually more plentiful. The 60th IB troops have now cordoned off the area, consequently denying the farmers the chance in securing better harvest to offset the hardships of the past year. Until now, the peasants are being denied entry to their farms. This is on top of the already existing economic restrictions being forcibly carried out by the 60th IB checkpoints in the area, where the masses are regularly subjected to harassment and intimidation.
But why the intense combat operations and wanton artillery and aerial bombardment in these areas? The hinterland villages of La Paz and its neighboring towns are an economic goldmine, which Duterte’s ruling clique is salivating over. Mt. Kinambaihan in La Paz is a target for foreign large-scale mining.
Since last year, reactionary officials under the Regional Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict in cahoots with the 60th IB have hamletted Lumad families in Brgy. Gupitan in Kapalong, dragging them out of their ancestral domain and into housing units to make way for banana plantations.
Mt. Diamond in Loreto is also a target for foreign large-scale mining, with roads already under construction. The masses in the area are angered by this intrusive project because they know that the roads are not being built as farm-to-market roads but for the easy entry of mining companies instead.
The AFP has proven yet again as a mercenary protector of the foreign and large capitalist interests out to bleed the country’s natural resources dry.
The masses have also reported that even in the ranks of the fascist mercenaries, the disunity is obvious and manifesting. The foot soldiers complain of the difficult terrain, the tiresome, no-let-up combat operations and the demeaning treatment from their officials. The masses note this low morale in the face of difficulties as a marked difference from their true army, the NPA, whose Red commanders and fighters become tempered in the armed struggle’s inevitable sacrifices and continue to enjoy the people’s trust and support in fighting a just war.