DAVAO CITY, Philippines- Maoist guerillas operating in the hinterlands in Southern Philippines accused the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) of exploiting and terrorizing children in its counter-insurgency operations against the New People’s Army (NPA) in Southern Mindanao Region.
The Southern Mindanao Region command of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-led NPA issued a press statement to various media outlets, a copy of which was furnished to www.allvoices.com assailing the government of Philippine President Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III and Manila’s state security forces of violating international laws and protocols governing the conduct of war and prohibitions against use or exploitation of children, which the NPA had adhered to in conducting a 40-year old civil war against the ruling Philippine state.
According to the statement, on local TV Tuesday, 14 September, Lt. Col. Medel Aguilar of the 10th Infantry Division of the Armed Forces of the Philippines presented to the social welfare department of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines a 17-year old so-called would-be recruit of the New People’s Army claiming that the minor escaped from the people’s army.
“Aguilar’s latest trick is his idea of getting back at the NPA for the whipping that the 84th Infantry Battalion-AFP under Lt. Col. Gabriel Viray took following their disastrous offensive operations in the Davao hinterlands against the people’s army,” the NPA-SMR command said.
Last 10 September, Lt. Col. Viray’s troops suffered nine casualties (4 killed, 5 wounded) in a supposed AFP combat operation against the New People’s Army in the boundary between Davao City and Davao del Sur. Reeling from the NPA’s lethal counter-attack, Aguilar and Viray then concocted a story out of a beaten script about NPA children recruits and presented the minor “Rose” as living proof of the preposterous accusation.
“The NPA has no minor combatants in its ranks. It strictly adheres to the principles and instruments of the international humanitarian and human rights law, and as reiterated in the Communist Party of the Philippines Executive Committee’s 1999 document “Memorandum on the Minimum Age Recruitment for NPA fighters,” the NPA-SMR command stated.
The NPA in the region is expecting the 10th ID-AFP’s Lt. Col. Aguilar to use every psywar gimmick from his bagful of fascist tricks. “Having failed miserably to extinguish the revolutionary forces, the 10th ID-AFP is now engaged in a full-scale psywar and publicity stunt, among others, one that capitalizes on minors as NPA surrenderees,” the NPA-SMR added.
“The AFP’s grandstanding of turning over the 17-year old to GRP civilian agencies is hypocritical in the light of the continuing
violation of the military against minors,” it stressed. The CPP-NPA said the AFP is notorious in killing children and misrepresenting them as armed fighters of the NPA (like the case of Grecil Buya in New Bataan, Compostela Valley), the AFP recruitment of minors to the paramilitary as further exposed in the capture of a Cafgu minor in Monkayo, Compostela Valley; and using Lumad minors to beef up its detachments as in the AFP detachments in Paquibato, Davao City.
Extrajudicial killing continues
Meanwhile the National Democratic Front of the Philippines -NDFP in Southern Mindanao deplored the fresh wave of extra judicial killings in the region.
“All in less than one month, three civilians — Reynaldo Labrador and Julius Tamondes in Paquibato, Davao City, and Vicente Felisilda in Mawab, Compostela Valley Province — were murdered by military and paramilitary forces in Southern Mindanao, belying Aquino’s human rights thrust in the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” the NDFP-SMR said.
The NDFP said the 50-year old president has only contradicted himself when he vouched for his armed forces’ commitment to champion human rights parallel to the extension of the US-sponsored and dictated ‘counter-insurgency’ Oplan Bantay Laya II.
“The latest body count proves one fact: unleashing the OBL is an explicit endorsement to the contemptible acts of Berdugo (The Butcher) Gen. Jovito Palparan and other OBL II models. Aquino has only unmasked himself as no different from his predecessor, the criminal Gloria Arroyo, for destroying civilian lives and livelihood in the guise of the regime’s counter-revolutionary policy”, it said.
On 12th of August, Tamondes was murdered in his farm during a ‘pangayaw’ in Paquibato staged-managed by the 1003rd Infantry Brigade-AFP under Brig. Gen. Eduardo del Rosario, and his stooge Confidential Agent
Ruben Labawan; 3 September, Labrador was murdered violently in front of his family inside his home in Paquibato by two unidentified AFP men and 69th Infantry Battalion-AFP paramilitary member Roberto “Kulot” Repe. Repe is in the roster of Lumad paramilitary vigilante that Labawan endorsed for training to the 10th Infantry Division-AFP last 14 June.
On 9th of September, Felisilda was murdered in Barangay Malinawon, Mawab, Compostela Valley Province, following the numerous death threats he received from the AFP deployed in the area. “All these murders happened amid the intense fascist operations in Southern Mindanao which is considered a priority region for Oplan Bantay Laya. Similar to other extra-judicial killings, all the victims are civilians; and have been threatened earlier, and arbitrarily tagged by the military as “supporters” of the revolutionary movement — or like Tamondes, killed in an indiscriminate AFP-supported tribal endetta to sow terror in the Davao City hinterlands,” the NDFP-SMR said.
In Paquibato, Labawan’s ‘pangayaw’ killed Tamondes while another farmer and church leader, Angelino Gentorales was able to escape last 12 August. Days after, Labawan’s pangayaw attempted the life of lay worker and farmer Dodo Cabatuan.
The ‘pangayaw’ prompted many residents to evacuate in the district’s center. The militarization in Paquibato victimized passenger motorcycle drivers who were either interrogated or mauled while some businessmen were accused of being NPA supporters. With the murder of Labrador, the military wanted to instill fear among Paquibato residents.
CA Labawan’s documents confiscated 6 August have further exposed del Rosario’s design in Paquibato and in creating liquidation squads among the vigilante Lumads in line with Palparan’s “shock and terror” campaign — so much more so that del Rosario’s minions included the Palparan-trained 69th Infantry Battalion and the 84th Infantry Battalion-AFP now based in Davao City.
“Aquino’s Oplan Bantay Laya emboldened B/Gen. del Rosario to resurrect the failed ‘Alsa’ Lumad — an AFP psywar scheme that del Rosario used at the onset of the detested Arroyo regime,” the NDFP in the region added. Similar in 2001, the NDFP noted that del Rosario recruited, armed and financed Lumad vigilante and fanatical groups to pit lumads against lumads, and against settlers in Davao hinterlands; and deliberately distorted the lumad tradition on avenging justice. He used the vigilante Alamara as a surrogate AFP force in its proxy war against the New People’s Army.
The NDFP said like in 2001, del Rosario’s design failed to decimate the revolutionary forces, instead, it has only earned the people’s ire with the string of human rights violations it brought about, among others, the barbaric murders in Paquibato and the bloody 2002 Pangyan Massacre in Davao City.
Since 2006, the 10th ID-AFP’s deployment in Southern Mindanao has resulted to an average of 100 persons daily whose rights have been violated, among others, mauled, tortured, illegally detained and interrogated, threatened, communities conscripted, evacuations, homes being ransacked. Victims of extrajudicial killings in the region already totalled more than a hundred including the despicable rape-slay of Rebelyn Pitao.
In Paquibato as in Compostela Valley, and other Southern Mindanao hinterlands, the NDFP said, the heavy militarization only served one purpose under Oplan Bantay Laya: alienate the people from their lands and livelihood and protect the corporate local and foreign plunderers.
“Aquino’s Oplan Bantay Laya now has only worsened the already sorry condition of the Filipino masses; and has already violently snuff out the lives of civilians Labrador, Tamondes, and Felisilda in Southern Mindanao. We call on the people to be vigilant and throughly frustrate Aquino’s Oplan Bantay Laya. Genuine justice can only be achieved through the intensification of the people’s democratic revolution,” the NDFP-SMR statement ended.