Even in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic and the worsening socio-economic straits of the people, the Duterte government has refused to relent in its counterinsurgency operations and continue to waste millions of pesos in costly artillery shelling, aerial bombardment, drone surveillance and combat operations in Mindanao and across the country.
Despite the shortage of funds to address the worsening state of the public health system and its incapacity to handle the accelerating spread of the Covid-19 in the country, and to help ameliorate millions of Filipino families who are suffering from Duterte’s lockdown, the Philippine government has refused to put a stop to its military operations.
Over the past few days, AFP battalions have conducted shelling and aerial bombardment operations in different parts of Mindanao. On March 29, the 4th Infantry Division conducted bombing runs in the hinterland barangays of Cabanglasan town in Bukidnon using FA-50s fighter jets which reportedly dropped several 500-pound bombs.
On March 18, the 1001st Brigade employed at least 10 combat aircraft to bombard upland communities of Mabini town, Davao de Oro (Compostela Valley) the whole day starting at four in the morning. They forced at least 50 families to flee to lowland areas.
The cost of flying FA-50s fighters jets and Augusta Westland helicopters to carry out bombing runs can run up to millions of pesos for the several hours they are used. These are millions of pesos of people’s money that are urgently needed for addressing the dire conditions of the Filipino people who have been placed under lockdown.
In addition to the Mindanao bombings, the AFP has intensified deployment of armed troops in rural villages Samar provinces, in Negros, in Panay, in Southern Tagalog provinces and others. Based on compiled reports, in just the past three weeks, armed troops of the AFP have conducted counterinsurgency operations in at least 62 towns, covering at least 91 villages.
In the guise of Covid-19 response, soldiers without facial masks or other medical gear, man checkpoints and enter peope’s homes in far-flung rural villages intimidating the peasant masses, accusing them of being NPA members or supporters and compelling them to “surrender.”
The continuing counterinsurgency operations of the AFP are being carried out despite the Duterte’s ceasefire order which covers the period March 19 to April 15. It has now become apparent that Duterte declared the ceasefire only to obscure the AFP’s brutal counterinsurency operations behind the veil of the Covid-19 crisis.
The Filipino people demand the Duterte government to stop the bombing spree in Mindanao and the continuing military offensives across the country especially at this time that the country is facing the Covid-19 crisis.
They demand further the withdrawal of armed soldiers deployed in farflung villages who not only subject residents to oppression, but also increase the danger of spreading the disease. So far, there are no reports of Covid-19 infection in the NPA areas because these are isolated by their distance from the urban population centers.
As the country surmount the Covid-19 crisis, the Filipino people demand that the people’s money being spent on costly military operations be realigned to help address the urgent public health and economic needs of the people.