The Efren Martires Command (New People’s Army-Eastern Visayas) again denounced the Armed Forces of the Philippines for intensifying its retooled community support program (RCSP) operations that are essentially combat-intelligence-psychological warfare operations for its war of suppression against the people of Samar, while possibly exposing the residents to the coronavirus disease-2019 (Covid-19). “The AFP could not care less about its unilateral ceasefire and thus continue to threaten peasant communities by compelling barangay officials and residents to participate in its counter-insurgency campaign while violating its own protocols against the coronavirus, which is apparently the government’s overkill and militarist response that is ultimately inutile and ineffective,” said Ka Karlos Manuel, spokesperson for the NPA-EMC.
According to the latest reports from the concerned NPA units, more troops under the 8th Infantry Division-Philippine Army have been deployed to barrios for RCSP operations as well as to roadside checkpoints in all provinces in Samar island, including Catubig, Las Navas, Gamay, Mapanas and Palapag towns in Northern Samar, as well as Arteche, Oras, Dolores, Can-avid, and Taft in Eastern Samar. Troops have also returned to barrios in Paranas and Motiong towns in Western Samar after withdrawing last month, thus adding to the massive military presence in Calbiga, Basey, and Pinabacdao since last year.
“Intensifying their counter-insurgency campaign, the soldiers knock on the barangay officials’ homes at night to coerce them to sign a resolution where they will express support for the creation of the Barangay Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict. They also make ordinary residents sign documents which could be surrender or waiver forms but they would not explain or give time to read. They interrogate the residents on the whereabouts of the NPA through harassment and Red tagging; they show pictures where the residents could be seen attending legitimate mass mobilizations and insist they admit that they are members of the revolutionary movement. A barangay council member was even held at gunpoint and told to admit he is a finance officer for the revolutionary movement, or else he will remain on the military’s ‘list.’”
Manuel scored the blatant overkill and scored the soldiers for potentially carrying the coronavirus and thus further threaten the people’s lives. “The masses complain that the population control measures are overly stringent against civilians, while on the other hand the soldiers come and go as they please and do not follow the protocol to prevent the spread of the virus. We do not know if they have been tested or not and yet they come into close contact with the residents. They do not wear face masks or personnel protective equipment while manning the checkpoints, while they conduct their house-to-house interrogations, and while they roam in the barrios. Without protective gear, the soldiers gather children in groups whom they try to bribe with food and candy and then ask about the presence of the NPA. They also force their way into private homes. Against the advice of the Department of Health of social distancing, they gather people in cockfights, drink alcohol and sing videoke in large groups, and disturb the masses’ peaceful living. They even drink alcohol at checkpoints.”
Manuel said the masses also chide the soldiers for their false promises of doctors and financial assistance. “No health workers have arrived to their communities and the people have received no food package or cash aid. The soldiers only stay and laze around without carrying out information campaigns or at least by giving out face masks or hygiene kits. These disprove that their operations are part of the anti-Covid-19 response of the Duterte regime; they are only using it as an excuse for their counter-insurgency operations. The masses call the soldiers as the ‘real viruses’ who have come to disturb the peace in their communities.”
The NPA-EMC spokesperson called out Major General Pio Diñoso III, commander of the 8th ID, as “callous and warmongering” for condoning the abuses and for being insensitive to the plight of the peasant masses whose hand-to-mouth existence is worsened by their exaggerated but ineffective security measures. “The 8th ID deploys up to a hundred soldiers to control the movement in as little as a few barrios. Residents cannot go to and from the town centers or at least to the nearest barangay without presenting a community quarantine pass signed by the local government. They cannot buy supplies or earn their living without being interrogated when they pass through checkpoints or when they leave for their farms. Due to the economic blockade, even the 8th ID’s own rank-and-file soldiers have gone hungry because supplies are lacking in the barrios and have resorted to working at the peasants’ farms to earn their food.”
Manuel called on the people of Eastern Visayas to denounce the attacks of the 8th ID, urge them to stop their combat operations in the barrios and redirect their forces towards providing actual services in health facilities. “They must instead engage the local governments to send health workers to the communities to provide medical services and supplies, conduct sanitation and health campaigns as well as free testing of the coronavirus. They must also call on for food and livelihood assistance, to lift the ban on public transport and facilitate the free movement of people so they can earn their living and go to medical facilities should they feel ill.”
“But in the end, they cannot rely on the anti-people and fascist Duterte regime who has taken advantage of the pandemic to intensify its suppression of the people. The president himself has openly disavowed helping his citizens by saying that if it is their time to die, then they will inevitably die. The people in the barrios can only rely on the NPA that has so far conducted education campaigns and have mobilized the masses in the territories of the people’s democratic government to actively lead the campaign against the spread of the disease in their communities.”#