By ISABEL FERMIZA
Spokesperson, NPA Mt. Apo Subregional Command
NPA Southern Mindanao Region
Successive tactical offensives launched by the Guerilla Front 51 Operations Command under the Mt. Apo Subregional Command-New People’s Army in Digos and Makilala towns this month were meant to stymie the abusive military operations of the notorious 39th Infantry Battalion, 10th Infantry Division of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
On 18 February at 3:30 am, NPA explosives killed scores of 39th Infantry Battalion soldiers at the military detachment in Jansig, Barangay (village) Old Bulatukan, Makilala. Earlier, on 10 February at 2:30pm, the NPA ambushed the Scout Rangers platoon of the 39th Infantry Battalion in Sitio (sub-village) Lutangan, Barangay Goma, Digos City.
Eight fascist troops were killed, while nine were wounded from the command detonated explosives and actual combat. The NPA confiscated one M-14 high powered rifle, several backpacks, and medical kits. One Red fighter, Ka Jiboy, was martyred and two other NPA guerillas were wounded.
The offensives were aimed at the 39th Infantry Battalion’s forward deployment at Makilala and Tulunan towns in North Cotabato, expanding its former territorial jurisdiction which covered all towns of Davao del Sur. Arrogant and fascist to the core, the 39th Infantry Battalion swaggers as the 10th Infantry Division’s biggest battalion, in a desperate move to widen its area of abuses.
On 9 February at 2:00 pm, combat troops of the 39th Infantry Battalion chanced upon Lumads who were hunting and detained them for two hours in the forest of Barangay Batasan, Makilala. Interrogated endlessly and threatened were Elorde Panggilan, Denis Panggilan, Dexter Panggilan, Ariel Panggilan, Randy Emban, Lodring Emban, Ryan Baclao, Jonel de Guzman, Wowie de Guzman, Henry Ando and Roel de Vera. The 12 civilians were only released when villagers and village officials negotiated and pleaded for their freedom from the clutches of the fascist 39th Infantry Battalion troops.
The incident was a prelude to more abusive activities by the 39th Infantry Battalion Special Operations Teams (SOTs) in Makilala, ranging from psychological warfare, forced surrender, and encampment in civilian structures in all of the town’s barangays. In one instance, soldiers, in a display of cowardice and desperation, took pictures of attendance sheets of a village meeting to identify leaders and members of peasant organizations.
It was reminiscent of the battalion’s bloody track record, which included the killing of Bador Dante of Barangay Kisante and Tata Dante of Barangay Malasila in Makilala town; Ignacio Ecoy in sitio Tabor, Barangay Goma, Bido Ecoy, Rody Panogan of sitio Guela, Barangay Goma, and Tata Panogan all in Digos City in 2005; Boy Navarez at sitio Alo, Barangay Darapuay, Ester Patiga at Sitio Balagonon, Barangay Managa, and Renato Jumawan of Barangay Managa, all in Bansalan town in 2006; and the Dejoses of Sta.Cruz town in 2011.
Indeed, the 10th Infantry Division’s declaration that Davao del Sur is already NPA-free a few months back was not only an empty claim in the light of the expansion and aggressive military operations of 39th Infantry Battalion in both Davao del Sur and North Cotabato provinces. It also signaled that the AFP intends to spread its rule of human rights abuses from one province to another under its tactic of engaging one AFP battalion for every NPA guerilla command.
By superciliously overextending and directing its fangs against hapless peasants and Lumads, the 39th Infantry Battalion further exposes itself as an army of frantic cowards hiding cover under the brutal yet futile counter-revolutionary program of Oplan Bayanihan. The masses must intensify its militant struggle against this fresh wave of notoriety and fascism, while the NPA strengthens itself as a true army and defender of the people.