By ROEL AGUSTIN II
Conrado Heredia Command, Spokesman
Front 20 Operations Command
New People's Army-Southern Mindanao
The February 1 early morning raid and disarming operation against a mercenary outpost of the 1403rd Police Provincial Mobile Group of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and Gov. Edie Bong Plaza's private armed group in Pulang Lupa, Trento, Agusan del Sur has thrown both the PNP and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) into a frenzy of lies and distortion of facts to smokescreen their glaring defeat and vilify this latest triumph of the People's Army.
Truth be told, the armed installation attacked by the Red fighters on Tuesday, despite the illogical claims of the enemy, was in fact a legitimate military target as per definition prescribed in Article 52, Protocol 1 of the Geneva Conventions. Being an outpost of an armed unit, it is preposterous to insist that they cannot be deemed as target of tactical offensives by the New People's Army.
Following the successful tactical offensive, the Red Army under the Conrado Heredia Command-Front 20 Operations Command seized two M16 rifles, one shotgun and a caliber .45 pistol. The Red fighters safely disengaged and withdrew from the site with no casualty. Contrary to lies being peddled by the PNP and AFP in the media, there were no civilian casualties during the raid.
The tactical offensive took less than 20 minutes. As the Red fighters took control of the military situation, PO3 Jorge Lumain Sabatin surrendered and was consequently conferred the status of a Prisoner of War.
Of course, the high echelons of the AFP and the PNP were equally dumbfounded and frothing in the mouth over this recent turn of events. For one, the Red Army successfully pulled off an annihilative military action in one of their installations along a national highway. Two, the enemy are scrambling as we speak to vilify an otherwise legitimate raid with convoluted logic and melodrama.
This military action of the Red Army is another stern warning against officials of the reactionary government like Gov. Plaza who continue to build private armed groups and employ enlisted PNP or AFP personnel to do their extortionist bidding.
To set the record straight, the following are clarifications of the lies and misinformation that the AFP and the PNP have deviously fielded in the media:
The 1403rd PPMG police checkpoint was a not a Bantay Kalikasan outpost. It was a lucrative logging extortion outpost masquerading as a joint Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and PNP anti-smuggling checkpoint. The masses in Pulang Lupa have reported that this outpost collects no less than P1,000 per truck as unaccounted SOP (standard operating procedure) fee or payola from both legal and illegal loggers.
The raided outpost was a legitimate military target. There are five policemen who regularly take alternate guard duties in the outpost. The other personnel, George Dimson, Carlito Benito, Fritz Mark Dimson and Salney Collantes, whom the enemy insist are "civilians", are in fact paid armed personnel of Gov. Plaza who assume much the same guard duties as the policemen. George Dimson is armed with an M16 rifle which he leaves with his son Fritz Mark, as what happened during the time of the raid, Benito has the shotgun and Collantes, being the team leader, favors the KG-9 and an M203 grenade launcher. At the time of the raid, PO2 Arisa, PO3 Sevillano, Benito and the younger Dimson were on duty.
The policemen and other armed personnel were never part of any flood relief efforts. The rationale behind the existence of this team of armed policemen and personnel were solely and exclusively to collect SOP fees from loggers ferrying legal and illegal logs. None of these armed collectors took part in any calamity relief mission and their outpost has been in Pulang Lupa for more than a year now, with or without floods.
Fritz Mark Dimson and Carlito Benito were armed personnel, forfeiting their status as civilians. It was no mere coincidence that the 19-year old Fritz Mark Dimson happened to be in the outpost on Tuesday morning. He has been working as armed personnel for Collantes' team since December last year while awaiting his application for an enlistment in the Philippine Army. Slinging his father George's M16, he flags down logging trucks and collects the SOP fee and earns P1,000 per week for this work. During the raid, he was found in his father's bunkhouse with the M16.
Carlito Benito, meanwhile, was the guard on front duty at the time. He was sectoring a shotgun and fired as the Red fighters controlled the area. He also earns P1,000 a week for being employed as an armed collector.
This being the case, both personnel can hardly be construed as civilians. They were in a police checkpoint doing mercenary armed personnel's work of coercion and extortion.
The Red Army took every necessary precaution to avoid civilian casualty. As per standard procedure, the operations command made detailed study and planning of the target, including and most especially, whether there are civilians involved. There were none; even in the last minute reconnaissance in the area prior to the conduct of the raid. During the raid, the trajectory of fire of the Red fighters were ensured to be well-away from the civilian populace with due consideration to the effective ranges of the ammunitions used. In fact, when PO3 Sevillano ran to the civilian houses some hundred meters away, even as he continued to shoot with the civilians as his cover, the Red fighters neither pursued nor returned fire to avoid untoward civilian casualties.
PO3 Sabatin is not being held hostage; he is a legitimate Prisoner of War. He surrendered when the Red fighters completely secured the area. He was in need of medical attention as his right leg sustained minor wounds due to splinters. He is well now and being accorded with all his rights as a Prisoner of War. He will be released and safely returned to his family following an investigation whether he was engaged in any serious crime against the people and the revolutionary forces. It has always been an inimitable tradition of the NPA to uphold the rights of its POWs, something we can hardly say about the PNP or the AFP.
All these lies that the AFP and the PNP told are nothing but knee-jerk reactions and rehashed propaganda tales meant to misdirect the public's attention from their inutility and the Red Army's victory. The masses in Pulang Lupa are in joy that this mercenary and abusive outpost was penalized and disarmed.
We call on the family of PO3 Sabatin to demand the cessation of the futile "rescue operations" for the expeditious and safe conduct of his investigation, and possible consequent release.
With this recent military victory, the NPA in the region presents more and more harbingers of the sustained conduct of guerilla warfare in the Red bases and even under the nose of the armed reactionary forces en route to the strategic stalemate of the people's war.