Philippine Army battalion suffers in series of NPA attacks in central Panay

By JURIE GUERRERO
Jose Percival Estocada, Jr. Command
NPA-Central Panay

NPA military actions in Central Panay are responses to the people’s demand for justice against the 61st IB’s long list of crimes

New People’s Army units under the Jose Percival Estocada, Jr. Command in Central Panay launched three consecutive military actions from 23 to 28 August 2011 against the 61st Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army. These actions are the NPA’s firm response to the 61st IB’s very long list of violence and violation of human rights against the people.

On 28 August 2011, sometime past ten in the morning, a platoon of Red fighters used a command detonated land mine to ambush the six-man command group of Bravo Company, 61st IB, aboard a KM 450 military vehicle at the boundary of Barangays (villages) Switch and Bagong Barrio, in Tapaz, Capiz.

Wounded in the ambush were 1Lt Jose Dalida, commanding officer of Bravo Company, 2Lt Lisbon Brawner, and enlisted personnel Pfc Arman Himorañon, Pfc Marlo Gahum and Cpl Reynante Vicente, while Cpl Pedrajas was unhurt. Pfc Marlo Gahum died without reaching the hospital because it took more than two hours for the two Huey helicopters to evacuate the wounded. An additional casualty, Pfc Rolly Plano, was wounded when the vehicle carrying reinforcements turned turtle in Sitio (sub-village) Ambulong, Barangay Malitbog, Tapaz.

Bravo Company is the most stubborn implementor of Oplan Bayanihan in Central Panay among the four companies under the 61st Infantry Battalion.

Meanwhile, two harassment actions were launched against two so-called Peace and Development Team (PDT) units of the Charlie Company, 61st IB. The first harassment was fired on 23 August 2011, a little past ten in the morning, against the PDT unit staying at the elementary school building in the barrio center of Brgy Tacayan, Tapaz. The second harassment was implemented on 28 August 2011, past five in the afternoon, against the PDT unit which was also lodged in the elementary school building in the barrio center of Brgy Acuña, in the same municipality. In these harassments, the NPA made sure no civilians were harmed.

For almost three months before these actions, from June to August, upland barrios in Tapaz have been disturbed without let up by military operations of 61st IB troops, who encountered an NPA squad on 6 August 2011 at the boundary of Bgy Lahug and Bgy Aglinab, Tapaz, Capiz. After that encounter, the 61st IB intensified its military operations to pursue this squad.

In the midst of their hot pursuit operations, Major Gen. Emmanuel Bautista, commander of 3rd Infantry Division, arrogantly called on the NPA to surrender. Their hot pursuit operations culminated in the establishment of additional PDT units in the barrio centers of barangays Tacayan, Acuña, Nayawan, Lahug and Aglinab. These are in addition to the existing PDT units in the barrio centers of barangays Libertad, Wright, Roosevelt, San Miguel Ilaya, Katipunan and the PA-CAA detachments in Masaroy, Calinog and Abangay, Tapaz.

This clearly shows the military’s utter disregard of the people’s legitimate petition against the military’s prolonged stay in the barrio centers. It has become clearer to the people that contrary to their pronouncements, the military’s intentions in staying at the barrio centers are not for peace and development but for war; not for defense but in order to use the people as human shields.

The 61st IB’s already long list of crimes against the people in Negros is rapidly growing longer in Panay Island. Among its most recent violations are:

  1. PDTs are stubbornly staying at the barrio centers of 11 barrios in Tapaz and Calinog despite the people’s strong protest against these;

  2. psychological warfrare and threats against those civilians who signed the petition against the village encampment, and coercing them to admit that they are NPA supporters;

  3. publicly accusing some persons that they are NPA members who supposedly had pictures holding guns or taking oaths;

  4. persistent harassment of progressive organizations and their leaders, endangering the lives of these leaders by fabricating stories that their groups are front organizations of the Communist Party of the Philippines, New People’s Army, and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (CPP-NPA-NDFP);

  5. misinforming the people with fake programs of land distribution; and

  6. giving protection to foreign corporations that bring in environmentally-destructive projects like mining and dams.

These consecutive successful actions of the NPA are surely appreciated by the people of Negros and Panay. Through these, victims of the 61st IB’s military violence will be given justice. Again, the people will prove that only through the long arms of revolutionary justice will their cries be answered.

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