By MAGNO UDYAW
Spokesperson, Leonardo Pacsi Command
NPA Mountain Province Provincial Operations Command
Since 13 November 2013 up to the present time, joint military operations are being conducted by the 50th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IBPA) and the Regional Public Safety Battalion – Cordillera Administrative Region (RPSB-CAR) of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in parts of Sagada, Bontoc, Tadian, Sadanga and Besao in the Mountain Province, as well as in Tubo and Boliney, Abra, and Quirino and Cervantes in Ilocos Sur. The operating troops from the 50th IB were struck twice by elements of the Leonardo Pacsi Command of the New People’s Army in the area of Mt. Amtinangad, Tubo, on the morning of 15 November, and in the afternoon of 16 November, wounding three of the fascist troops. There were no casualties on the side of the NPA.
The NPA Leonardo Pacsi Command condemns the human rights violations resulting from these military operations which are being spearheaded by the Commanding Officer of the 50th IBPA, Lt. Col. Richard Sibayan, and the CO of the RPSB-CAR, Chief Superintendent Benjamin Magalong. The worst violation was committed against two small-scale miners working in Baclingayan, Tubo, Abra, who were shot by the fascist troops and then tied and detained on 16 November. The two miners held up their hands as they approached but were nevertheless fired upon. One of the miners named ‘Dalanen’, from Bangaan, Sagada, sustained a gunshot wound in the leg.
Prior to this incident, the military troops stationed at Barangay (village) Bangaan, northern Sagada, fired their guns indiscriminately on 14 November, from evening until dawn. They also prevented workers from going to their workplace in order to continue the construction of the Buasao Irrigation System, thus causing delay of the project. In addition to this, the military aimed their guns at residents of Bangaan, including a minor and a foreign national (married to a local resident) who went to check on his animal traps in an area where the military were camping. The residents, especially the minor, were left traumatized.
In the communities of northern Sagada, the troops of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police continue to prevent the people from going to their farms, pasture lands, mine sites, hunting grounds and forest areas. A youth named ‘Tambarong’ from Belwang, Sadanga, was also illegally detained by them. This is happening even as the peoples of the Mountain Province have barely recovered from the irresponsible bombing and strafing conducted by the Philippine Army in the areas of Aguid, Sagada and Bontoc last September.
At present, widespread militarization continues in western Mountain Province and in adjacent areas of southern Abra. Four columns of operating troops are spread out in the mountains and forests between Sadanga and Tubo, in Mt. Datakan just above Bangaan, Sagada; Lake Danum between Sagada and Besao (which is a regular route for public vehicles); and in Kin-iway in Poblacion Besao (where military vehicles are parked). Military helicopters and airplanes fly around these areas daily.
Just last month, the 50th IBPA prevailed upon the Local Government Units of the Mountain Province to sign a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) formalizing their alleged cooperation in working for “peace and development” through Oplan Bayanihan’s counter-insurgency clear-hold-consolidate-develop approach. The Philippine Army deceived and coerced five town mayors, except for Mayor Odsey of Bontoc, to sign the said MOA.
Now the true objective of this MOA has been exposed — to facilitate widespread military operations while mobilizing additional support from the RPSB-CAR and municipal police stations, and at the same time setting aside the communities’ right to unrestricted movement and economic activities. The blatant objective of the MOA is to stifle the growing revolutionary movement in Mountain Province and among all Igorots, and to pacify the Cordilleran communities who continue to fight for their right to their ancestral domain and resources.
Alongside the widespread military operations, also ongoing are the maneuverings of large-scale mining and energy companies to establish themselves in Mountain Province. The presence of the military facilitates the exploitation of community resources for private gain. On the other hand, the entry of capitalist interests serves to worsen the exploitation suffered by the national minorities, the violation of their individual and collective rights, the use of locals as soldiers, police and paramilitary CAFGU against their own ka-ilyan (townmates), and the destruction of the peoples’ livelihood.
This is a wake-up call for local government unit officials to denounce the MOA between them and the AFP. It is but correct to rescind this MOA which only serves to utilize the LGUs against their own constituents. In the short period since the MOA was signed, so many human rights violations have already occurred. The MOA’s true aim is to coopt the civilian bureaucracy (as represented by the LGUs and the PNP) into aiding and abetting the violence and fascism designed by the AFP Command. This is in stark contrast to the higher mandate that is held by civilian authorities and local government executives over the direction and actions of the PNP under them.
The present duet of the 50th IBPA and the RPSB, under the joint connivance of Lt. Col. Sibayan and Chief Superintendent Magalong, has been proven to be of no benefit whatsoever to the people, and instead brings about worsening harassment, intimidation and deception. Just like the sinking ship of their boss Noynoy Aquino and US imperialism, Oplan Bayanihan is a desperate attempt to suppress the growing unity of the Cordillera peoples and of the entire nation.
The numerous fascist troops that have been deployed in Mountain Province and Abra only serve to cover up their defeat in the face of the ever-growing NPA and revolutionary masses. The successful NPA offensives, from the Tadian ambush conducted last June, the encounter in Sagada-Bontoc in August, and now the 15-16 November ambushes, as well as other offensives in nearby provinces and regions, continue to haunt the AFP.
The Leonardo Pacsi Command and other units of the NPA will continue their military victories and the all-sided advance of the revolutionary movement, especially agrarian revolution and the expansion of revolutionary mass organizations.
Strengthen our revolutionary ranks!
Fetad against Oplan Bayanihan!
Fetad against the capitalist greed of large-scale mining and energy companies!
Fetad against the exploitation of national minorities!