By Ka MARIA MALAYA
Spokesperson, NDFP Northeastern Mindanao Region
Its dismal failure to render the revolutionary movement to inconsequentiality within the first half of its term has pushed the reactionary US-Aquino regime to escalate the brutal military operations of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in the CARAGA region.
Since January this year, the AFP has added three more battalions to its already existing five,and has immediately commenced its military operations without let-up in the entire Caraga region. As a result, human rights violations committed by the reactionary troops of the US-Aquino regime have greatly increased.
Alongside the vast fighting masses in the North Eastern Mindanao Region (NEMR), the New People’s Army has heroically fought this latest round of military campaign and operations, which has resulted in numerous battles between Red fighters and the forces of the reactionary AFP-PNP-CAFGU. From January up to the present, there had been 50 military incidents, 44 of which were tactical offensives (TOs) of the NPA in NEMR. Out of the 44 TOs, 41 were attritive operations (harassments), one was annihilative, and two were sanctions against giant agri-business plantations that continuously violate people’s rights and welfare, and disregard revolutionary policies.
As a result of these battles, the Armed Forces of the reactionary regime sustained 77 casualties, where 39 were killed-in action (KIA) and 38 wounded-in-action (WIA). The Red fighters sustained a total of 14 casualties, seven of whom were martyred while seven were wounded. The AFP, consistent with its tradition as mercenaries, gunned down civilians whom they suspected to be members of the NPA.
The latest of these incidents were a number of skirmishes in the mountainous area of Bayugan City. Dawn of 15 June 2014, company-sized troops of the 26th Infantry Battalion entered the hinterlands of Mt. Ararat, Bayugan City. Around 6:45AM of the next day (16 June), an NPA team harassed this group of 26th Infantry Battalion soldiers, two of whom were instantly rendered as casualties. The following day, 17 June, around noon, two Huey helicopters of the Philippine Air Force delivered additional troops at Purok 4, San Juan, Bayugan City. However, shortly after the choppers took off, another NPA team harassed said AFP troops. Only a little over an hour after the incident, another pair of Huey helicopters came for rescue but was unable to land because they were fired at by NPA snipers.
Early morning of 18 June, the AFP deployed additional troops to Sitio Lanao, Barangay (village) Magkayangkang, and mounted two 105mm cannons. But, around 11:00 am, an NPA team harassed a column of the AFP in Sitio Dalikan, Mt. Carmel, which is a hill adjacent to Mt. Ararat.
Using the two cannons, AFP troops commenced shelling Mt. Ararat by 12:30PM, with the aim to drive NPA forces out of the area. Not content with the cannons, by 2:30PM until 3:00PM, two OV-10 bomber planes dropped nine bombs and indiscriminately fired 50-calibre machine guns onto Mt. Ararat and other nearby areas. Upon initial investigation, there were a few houses of local residents nearly hit by the bombs and grazed by the bullets of the 50-calibre machine gun. This is a desperate move on the part of the AFP just to drive NPA forces, especially those who have courageously fought and caused casualties against operating AFP troops, out of the area. There is absolutely no truth to the claim that an NPA camp was the target of their shelling and bombing.
This cowardly method of shelling and bombing have greatly shocked and harassed residents of Barangay Ararat and other neighbouring barangays, forcing them to flee their homes and farms. The NPA has long been organizing in these barrios, but never has it resulted in enforced evacuations. The presence of the NPA, in truth, is not the reason why the masses have evacuated these areas, but it is because of the terror brought on by the AFP’s heavy shelling, bombing and indiscriminate machine gun firing.
These bloody military operations in Caraga have not only been carried out in the hinterlands of Bayugan Ctiy, but are simultaneously being launched in many areas within the four provinces of Caraga where, aside from employing psywar operations through Re-engineerd Special Operations Teams (RSOT) or so-called Community Organizing for Peace and Development (COPD), and combat operations, heavy artillery and bomber helicopter and planes are used to terrify and cause extensive detriment to the people. These weapons of sheer terror form part of the so-called military aid given by their US imperialist master, including unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) or drones.
We call on the people to unite and vehemently protest against these brutal combat operations and military campaign of the reactionary US-Aquino regime, most especially against the indiscriminate shelling and bombing of the AFP, and firing against civilians such as the incident in Tagkiling, Butuan City which killed a farmer last April 27, this year.
We call on humanitarian and enlightened sectors as well from the religious, middle forces and local officials to immediately lend support to the evacuees and other victims of human rights violations.
We call on all concerned sectors, including NGOs, the religious, middle forces and the mass media, to form an independent body to investigate this latest incident of enforced evacuations and other vile forms of human rights abuses in the hinterlands of Bayugan City, Agusan del Sur.