By MARTIN MONTANA
Chadli Molintas Command
NPA Ilocos-Cordillera Region
In the past few months, the 5th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army has been exerting efforts to prevail upon Cordillera local government executives to sign a memorandum of agreement for the turnover of internal security operations to the provincial governments and police units. The said agreement, obviously the handiwork of the 5th ID, declares respective Cordillera provinces "cleared" of NPA units and binds the provincial governments to commit their time, personnel and resources to the anti-insurgency campaign. A version of the agreement has been signed in Kalinga province and is still being studied by Ifugao provincial executives.
Foisting this agreement upon provincial governments is a sneaky way by which the 5th ID can claim that it has met the absurd and unrealistic deadline imposed by their former fake commander-in-chief Gloria Arroyo to crush the armed revolutionary movement by June 2010. It will also continue the objective of the past administration's Oplan Bantay Laya 2 to further subsume local governments and police units into the AFP counter-insurgency program.
Grossly exaggerated pronouncements made by the 5th ID that the New People's Army in the Cordillera has been "significantly reduced and relegated to an inconsequential level" were ground into the dirt by the victorious ambush staged last 9 July by the Leonardo Pacsi Command-NPA Mountain Province that wiped out a unit of the 52nd Division Reconnaisance Company.
Unsurprisingly, the AFP raised hue and cry that the ambushed unit was on its way to coordinate a medical mission. Like a bully wailing foul when given his comeuppance, the AFP employs this over-used and dishonest tactic to portray its paid soldiers as good samaritans waylaid while on a mission of mercy.
Two days prior to the ambush, the 5th ID did conduct a medical mission in Aguid, Sagada, Mountain Province as the civil-military component of a simultaneous combat operation in the same area. The insignificant medical and engineering civic action programs undertaken by the AFP are mere fronts to soften the detrimental impact of simultaneous and often large-scale combat operations on the local population.
It must be emphasized that the ambush staged by the Leonardo Pacsi Command used equitable force against a well-armed unit of capably-trained elite troops. The 52nd DRC is frequently used as a forward screen and spearpoint for offensive military operations, and as the force of choice of the 5th ID for precision and strike operations in the Mountain Province and nearby areas.
It is interesting to note that the 5th ID has intensified its operations in the Cordillera under the leadership of Brig. Gen. Rommel Gomez, himself a Cordillera native. BGen. Gomez served with the infamous executioner Jovito Palparan and once headed the 703rd Infantry Brigade that had operational control over the 69th Infantry Battalion which was behind numerous human rights violations in Central Luzon, including the murder of Aeta leader Ricardo Guiao.
BGen. Gomez and his fellow Igorot officers obviously think that a repeat of the human rights violations done under their watch in Central Luzon and other areas is the best way by which they could improve the lives of their fellow Cordillerans. In a series of large-scale military operations since January, they gave free rein to troops of the 52nd DRC, 50thIB, 54th IB, and 77th IB to descend upon and harass villages in the Mountain Province. Villages in southwest Ifugao province have been turned into virtual military garrisons.
It is duplicitous for the military to wail about being victims when it is they who routinely violate the rights of the people. No amount of name-calling and drama on their part can generate sympathy for troops who are known perpetrators of extrajudicial killings; abductions and enforced disappearances; indiscriminate bombings and strafings; damage to crops, agricultural infrastructure and property; and theft of poultry and farm animals.
It behooves BGen. Gomez and his fellow Igorot officers to listen to the voice of the people. The people of the Mountain Province have this to say about the ambush, "Masem da, those abusive troops had it coming."