AFP junks NPA’s tale on death of 26 soldiers

THE MILITARY yesterday denied allegation of the New People’s Army (NPA) that 26 of their soldiers were killed in a series of encounters in different areas in the region from Dec. 27 to 30, 2017.

“That is a blatant lie,” Maj. Gen. Noel Clement, the commander of Philippine Army’s 10th Infantry Division, told TIMES yesterday. “The AFP does not hide its casualties and always states facts based on results of the encounters.”

“That is purely a propaganda statement to project an imagined strength of this terrorist organization,” Clement added.

In a press statement issued by NPA spokesperson Rigoberto Sanchez of the Southern Mindanao Regional Operations Command, the communist armed group said they launched five military actions that resulted in at least 26 casualties against the government troops.

Sanchez claimed the operations were launched as an active defense against ceasefire and human rights violations committed by operating troops of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) from Dec. 27 to 30.

“The tactical offensives against the rabid reactionary armed forces serve to underscore the growing demand to overthrow Rodrigo Duterte from power.” Sanchez said.

He said the AFP soldiers belonging to the 28th Infantry Battalion and the Scout Rangers Company took a beating from the Red fighters of Comval-Davao East Coast Sub-Regional Command following a series of offensives in Barangay Tubaon, Tarragona, Davao Oriental.

The NPA claimed that the AFP troopers have launched operations in Tubaon, a remote village in Tarragona, since before its supposed ceasefire began on Dec. 23.

“There is no truth to the pronouncement of Clement that the NPA harassed a militia outpost and a militiaman on Dec. 25,” the NPA statement also revealed.

The communist group claimed that it was on Dec. 28 that AFP troopers were hit three times in one day by NPA operations in Sitio Gibaan and Sitio Bato-bato, killing 16 and severely wounding two others.

The NPA added that on Dec. 30, at least eight soldiers were killed in an ambush when members of the 28th IB and Scout Rangers “were lured deep into the NPA’s active defense plan in Sitio Madian

The statement added that Red fighters under ComVal-Davao Gulf Sub-Regional Command also launched an operation against operating 66th IB troops on Dec. 29 in Brgy. Marayag, Lupon, Davao Oriental.

They claimed that the government troopers, apart from several hours of mortar shelling, also detained for three days 10 farmers and subjected them to physical and psychological torture.

Rigor said “all there military actions were undertaken in adherence to the CPP declaration of ceasefire during the traditional holidays.”

“In fact, in contrast and in direct violation of their own ceasefire pronouncement, the AFP aggressively deployed combat troops in remote villages in at least eight municipalities in the region,” it said.

They claimed that since Dec. 19 up to the present, the 60th IB, 72nd IB and their paramilitary Alamara forces have terrorized hundreds of civilians in at least four Lumad communities in Brgy. Gupitan, Kapalong, Davao del Norte. The Lumad have since evacuated to other villages because of food blockade that was enforced by AFP troops and their paramilitary forces. Other cases of harassments were reported in adjacent villages.

It further claimed that in North Cotabato, particularly in Arakan, the newly-deployed 15th IB has practically turned the town into a virtual garrison with its troops launching operations day in and day out in Lumad and peasant villages even during the AFP’s ceasefire period. Since Dec. 11, hundreds of AFP soldiers have been deployed in several villages in town.

“Peace and human rights advocates in the province are raising alarm that the deployment of a full battalion will only escalate and aggravate cases of human rights abuses perpetrated by AFP soldiers and the paramilitary Alamara,” the NPA statement said.

In Magpet town, the NPA said, troopers from the 39th IB launched operations in Brgy. Mahongcog on Dec. 23 up to the present, encamped at the barangay hall and are readying to construct a detachment in the middle of the civilian populace. In the town’s Brgy. Tiko, troopers belonging to the 39th IB and paramilitary Bagani scoured Lumad communities from Dec. 21 until Dec. 26.

Prior to this, the 39th IB terrorized the village when it launched several rounds of indiscriminate aerial shelling using night-capable fighter planes at 3 am and at least 10 rounds of mortar shelling that lasted until noon on Dec. 21. Following the unprovoked and senseless aerial attack and bombardment, farms were destroyed as troops ransacked houses of civilians.

In Compostela Valley, the 46th IB and the 71st IB launched offensive operations in the hinterland villages of Tapan and Mascareg in Mabini town; in Malamodao, Panibasan and Panangan in Maco town; and in Lawaan, Panganasan and Palo in Pantukan town from Dec. 23 until Dec. 26.

“These operations were clearly vain attempts by the US-Duterte regime at preventing the masses and the NPA from holding celebrations for the 49th year anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines on December 26.” Sanchez said in the statement. “The forward deployment of AFP troops in interior villages around the region unmasked the AFP’s predisposition to violate their own ceasefire violation and which, time and again, has been proven to not only be spurious but also empty propaganda as well.”

The NPA in Southern Mindanao said they will continue to defend the masses and the political authority of the People’s Democratic Government in the face of escalating fascism of the US-Duterte regime with more head and body blows against the AFP, PNP and their paramilitary forces.

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