By Simon "Ka Filiw" Naogsan
Spokesperson, Cordillera Peoples' Democratic Front
The Cordillera People’s Democratic Front (CPDF) strongly condemns the disruptive military operations now being conducted by the composite units of the 5ID under the direct supervision of Col. Fajardo and Col. Sumagaysay, commanding officer (CO) and deputy commanding officer respectively of the 502nd Infantry Brigade. The agricultural lands of the villages of Dalican and Mainit, Bontoc, Mountain Province were strafed by helicopter gunships from March 30 to April 2. The military operation has escalated to include some barrios of Sagada and Besao.
The economic activities of these farming communities are being unduly disrupted. Peasants are prevented from tending their ricefields at this stage of the agricultural cycle when it is vital that they constantly maintain the correct water level of their rice crop.
Small scale miners working at the Maatung, Chakep, and Pekcha creeks and in Mt. Matuwe, Mainit had to hastily abandon their tunnels and leave the area for fear of being arbitrarily tagged as NPA red fighters and detained, manhandled, or summarily executed.
Work animals in the communal pastureland stampeded as a result of the indiscriminate strafing sorties launched by helicopter gunships. More often than not, these animals are later stolen, butchered, and eaten by ravaging AFP combat troops.
People complained that the frequent landings, take-offs, and hovering of helicopters in Bontoc disrupted the ecumenical mass and graduation rites at the Mountain Province State Polytechnic College (MPSPC) and the opening of the Mountain Province 2009 Lang-ay Festival.
The AFP proffered the lame excuse that their operation was directed at disrupting the annual celebration of the NPA founding anniversary last March 29. But the truth is the entry of at least a battalion of combat troops and the employment of air assets in the ongoing military operation is a desperate but futile move of the AFP and its commander-in-chief to cow the people into submission and pave the way for the entry of large-scale mining companies to exploit the gold-rich ancestral lands in upland Bontoc and Northern Sagada. The same program was seen in recent months in Abra and Kalinga where massive military operations were conducted in an attempt to dislodge the armed revolutionary forces and pave the way for the entry of mining interests into the gold-rich communities.
The CPDF commends the people of Dalican, Bontoc for massing at the provincial capitol and bravely confronting Col. Sumagaysay, CO of Task Force Montañosa. The farmers demanded the pullout of troops from the Dalican because it is the season for irrigating the rice terraces and the villagers needed to be constantly attending to their rice fields. Col. Fajardo was in the PNP barracks compound during the confrontation but did not appear before the people. Subsequently, troops started pulling out from the Guinaang patrol base the next day.
It should be noted that troops from composite units of the 5ID that participated in the operation, including those of the 52nd Division Recon Coy and Scout Rangers, continue to stay in Bontoc during the Holy week possibly as a prelude to further offensives in the Abra-Mountain Province-Ilocos Sur boundary. Choppers continued to ferry military equipment and materials to the Kin-iway, Besao patrol base, including what are believed to be parts of a 105mm howitzer.
The NPA and the people of Mountain Province will continue to frustrate further operations by the military and big mining companies.