For wounding a child and endangering the lives of at least 11 other people including an infant, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) demanded on Monday that the military unit involved in a rampage in Bukidnon last October 16 be disarmed and withdrawn from the area.
Marco Valbuena, CPP chief information officer, condemned the indiscriminate firing by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) soldiers against a family harvesting corn in their field in Barangay Indalaza, Malaybalay City. A 10-year old boy identified as Jemlyn Liaban suffered a gunshot wound to his foot. The strafing also endangered Jessica Limpyo who was carrying her baby.
A report on the indiscriminate firing was exposed earlier by the National Democratic Front-North Central Mindanao Region, which said that after being engaged in an armed encounter with a unit of the New People’s Army, the soldiers indiscriminately shelled the area with artillery and strafed other nearby huts and houses for about an hour. The field where Jemlyn’s family was harvesting corn was only 100 meters away from the soldiers.
The NDF-NCMR also reported that after the indiscriminate firing, the soldiers proceeded to the barangay center where they harassed residents. A resident identified as Tet Limbos was mauled. Also, the soldiers challenged a local religious leader to a fistfight.
“Soldiers belonging to this AFP unit must be immediately disarmed, removed from their post, and charged for their criminal acts,” Valbuena said.
It was not immediately known which military unit perpetrated the crime. Bukidnon is covered by operations of the 403rd Brigade, which is encamped in Malaybalay City and is currently being commanded by Col. Ferdinand Barandon. Since March 2018, at least five battalions under the 403rd Brigade have targeted Bukidnon with focused military operations.
Barangay Indalaza is one of the villages on Pantaron Mountain Range, which is included in the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict’s so-called Convergence Areas for Peace and Development. Focused military operations aim to “clear” the areas of NPA presence and drive away residents to pave the way for the South Pulangi Hydroelectric Power Plant project, commercial plantations and other infrastructure projects.
Valbuena urged human rights and humanitarian agencies and organizations to immediately carry out an independent investigation into the incident. He also called on the residents to stand firm and demand justice and retribution.
He called on the local NPA unit to do their utmost to defend the masses against military abuses and mount tactical offensives that the perpetrators of the crime.