José Luis Martín C. Gascon
Chairman, Commission on Human Rights
Dear Chairman Gascon,
Warm felicitations! We hope that you and your family and colleagues are in good health amid the threats of the Covid-19 pandemic.
We read the statement yesterday issued by CHR spokesperson Atty. Jacqueline Ann de Guia regarding the March 28 armed encounter between the AFP and the New People’s Army in Barangay Puray, Rodriguez, Rizal. According to the statement, the CHR “condemns the said attack” citing the ceasefire declaration issued by the CPP last March 26.
With due respect, we would like to take exception to CHR statement’s presumption that the clash was a result of an “attack” by the NPA unit in the area. The statement was based on published reports of the AFP.
However, based on a report we received yesterday, the clash resulted when a unit of the 80th Infantry Battalion assaulted the position of the NPA unit in the area. The said NPA unit was preparing to hold a village meeting to discuss community preparations and precautions against the spread of the Covid-19, as a way of marking the NPA’s anniversary the following day.
In its own “Encounter Report,” the 80th IB itself, said it “conducted community defense patrol at vicinity So Malasya Uyungan, Brgy Puray, Rodriguez, Rizal” resulting in the armed encounter. It is clear from this report that the NPA unit was not on offensive mode, and that it was the said AFP unit that was conducting armed operations.
There are clearly two contradictory assertions about the March 28 Rizal armed encounter. However, the aforementioned CHR statement merely took one side. As an independent constitutional body, we had hoped that the CHR was more scrupulous in examining the facts of the incident before issuing a conclusive verdict.
In this regard, we would like to express our willingness to cooperate with the CHR to help it come up with more substantive information about the March 28 armed encounter in Rizal. The local unit of the NPA can provide you with their detailed account of the incident.
In addition to investigating the incident, the CHR can also look into the conditions of the people in Barangay Puray who have been complaining about military abuses perpetrated by people of the 81st IB in their village, including population control measures which have prevented the villagers from tending to their farms and making a living. There are also complaints of threats and forcing people to join the CAFGU and undergo training.
We would also like to take this occasion to encourage the CHR to look into similar complaints of abuses arising from restrictions imposed by the AFP under the Duterte government’s lockdown in various provinces, including those outside Luzon.
In our statement yesterday, we have reiterated that the NPA will continue to uphold the unilateral ceasefire declaration of the CPP. The ceasefire order aims to enable all NPA units to concentrate on efforts to help the people in confronting the Covid-19 pandemic, by raising their awareness and implementing measures to prevent its spread and help those who have been infected.
We have assured AFP units in the field that they will not be attacked by the NPA. We ask that they concentrate on providing public health service and refrain from conducting armed patrols and reconnaisance operations which may lead to armed clashes with NPA units in their areas.
Indeed the Filipino people need all the help that they can get amid this crisis.
Marco L. Valbuena, Chief Information Officer
Communist Party of the Philippines