In the past 25 days, units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) have conducted relentless counterinsurgency operations across the country. Fascist troops continue to conduct combat, psywar and intelligence operation exposing the Duterte regime’s sham ceasefire declaration issued on March 16 and effective until April 15 purportedly to concentrate on the Covid-19 crisis.
Based on field reports and public statements issued by various units of the New People’s Army (NPA) and Party committees, AFP and PNP offensive operations have been carried out in at least 216 villages in 104 towns and 31 provinces across the country since March 17. Further details are still being gathered.
The provinces with the most number of affected barangays are Bukidnon, Quezon, Negros Occidental, Zamboanga del Sur, Sorsogon, Misamis Occidental, Zamboanga Sibugay, Palawan, Davao de Oro, Abra, Western Samar, Northern Samar, Eastern Samar, Zamboanga del Norte, Occidental Mindoro and Oriental Mindoro.
Units of the AFP have been conducting combat operations targeting NPA units in their encampments. These armed offensives have resulted in at least 13 armed clashes between the AFP and NPA in Malaybalay City, Mt. Kitanglad and Kabasalan in Bukidnon; Pantukan, Davao de Oro; Baganga, Davao Oriental; Lambunao, Iloilo; Gumaca, Mulanay and San Narciso in Quezon; Rodriguez, Rizal; Dumingag, Zamboanga del Sur; and in Kabasalan and Siay in Zamboanga Sibugay.
Despite the AFP’s insistence that these armed clashes are NPA violations of its own ceasefire, their own spot reports and media statements point to the contrary, as their units admit to mounting “security patrols” and “pursuit operations.” The NPA units attacked were on defensive mode and where either at rest, doing mass work, or busy preparing materials and supplies and training for mass campaigns.
In addition to the offensive combat operations, the AFP also conducted at least five aerial bombing and artillery shelling operations on March 17, March 24 and March 27-29 in Davao del Norte, Davao de Oro and Bukidnon provinces, all in the island of Mindanao. Reports in Bukidnon indicate that the AFP dropped several rounds of 500-pound bombs which caused widespread trauma among the residents in nearby villages and damage to the environment which serve as sources of food and livelihood of the local Lumad peasants.
On the pretext of conducting Covid-19 related activites, AFP troops roam civilian communities, set up checkpoints, prohibit people from buying food and other necessities, prevent peasants from tending to their crops, forcibly enter people’s homes, accuse them of being armed fighters or NPA supporters, and compel them to “cooperate” lest they remain in the military’s “list.” There have been several incidents of arrests of peasants, including the detention of 11 Lumad farmers in Pantukan town, as well as the arrest of a 71-year old local peasant leader Proceso Torralba in Butuan City, accused of being an NPA member. In Laguna, scores of peasants rounded up from Kalayaan and Cavinti towns, as well as from General Nakar, Quezon, were rounded up and paraded as “surrenderees.”
In addition to complaints against harassments and intimidation, village residents have raised concerns that these soldiers who come from different places do not wear face masks or any protective gear raising the probability of spreading Covid-19 among the hinterland villages. They also question why the Duterte government has deployed armed soldiers to their villages, instead of mobilizing, training and equiping local health officials and health workers to manage and prevent the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.
NPA units across the country have observed the March 25-April 15 ceasefire declaration issued by the Party Central Committee, in response to the call of the United Nations Secretary General for a global ceasefire. They have refrained from mounting attacks against the counterinsurgency troops of the AFP and PNP, although always alert to give battle to defend themselves and the masses.
Despite the AFP counterinsurgency operations, units of the NPA, in partnership with the health committees of the local peasant organizations were able to mount a still continuing public health campaign in order to help the people implement measures to prevent the spread of the Covid-19.
Some units have successfully mounted mass clinics where NPA medics and local health workers conducted medical check-ups, treated common ailments, gave care and advise to the elderly and pregnant women, and conducted seminars to raise the people’s awareness of the disease. This campaign is well received by the masses because they are empowered and encouraged to take the necessary action, instead of being paralyzed by fear of the virus.
There are also plans to carry out a widespread campaign to raise food production, as well as push for the just demands of peasants to lower land rent or have it temporarily waived, lower interest rates and cancel debts, raise farm wages and demand fair prices for farm produce, as well as other agrarian reforms. This campaign has become of great urgency as food shortages in some parts of the country become imminent as a result of the Duterte lockdown and the impending sharp downturn of the economy.
The revolutionary forces are also establishing cooperative efforts with friendly officials of the GRP’s local government units at various levels. Many officials are genuinely concerned with the well-being of their constituents who are in dire straits as a result of the military lockdown. They are also gravely concerned with the ever greater difficulties the people are going to face in the coming months and years.
The Party calls on all its committees, all NPA units and all revolutionary forces to continue to strengthen and consolidate their ranks in an all-sided manner in order to enable them to lead the masses in facing the public health crisis and the grave socio-economic crisis.