30 arms confiscated in Abra province
The revolutionary armed group New People’s Army (NPA), in various statements, claims to have killed and wounded as many as 118 government troops and carted off at least 44 high-powered rifles in a series of offensives nationwide the past four months.
BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
The New People’s Army (NPA) mounted a number of offensives against military and police units in various regions during the past four months, based on statements sent to media by the Public Information Bureau of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), the regional NPA commands, newspaper and military accounts. The single biggest operation that netted the highest number of arms was its June 4 raid of a military detachment in Abra, a province 408 kms north of Manila.
Guerrillas under the NPA’s Agustin Begnalen Command in Abra overran early morning of June 4 the Philippine Army’s 41st Infantry Battalion’s (IB) detachment in Brgy. Tempo, Tubo town. The NPA wounded eight soldiers and seized 31 high-powered rifles.
Police sources said that among those wounded were: MSgt. Agullana; MSgt. Perez; Sgt. Mamugan; Corporal Tapaoan; paramilitary Benido Kipas; and a certain paramilitary Benedicto.
The NPA offensive came in the wake of government pronouncements that the military would be able to defeat the insurgents in six to ten years.
In a news release e-mailed June 5 and signed by Simon “Ka Filiw” Naogsan, spokesperson of the Cordillera People’s Democratic Front (CPDF), the rebels said the military killed a civilian identified as Linda Camiling. This was contrary to earlier government troopers’ claim that the guerillas fired at civilians and used them as shields.
“This happened because the 41st IB violated the rules of war and insisted on using the Barangay Hall as a detachment/patrol base, despite protests from the people,” the statement read.
In addition, Naogsan said the offensive was in response to the intensifying militarization connected with the incursions of foreign mining companies in the Cordillera.
“Ever since the Mining Act of 1995 was declared constitutional, the U.S.-Arroyo regime has been aggressively enticing mining applications and speeding up their approval through its Mining Action Plan. The regime is baring the Cordillera for imperialist mining corporations to rape, by eliminating all protections to the rights of national minorities to their ancestral lands and natural resources. Concomitant to this, the regime has militarized the Cordillera, especially in areas of people’s resistance. The AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and CAFGU (Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit) are being used to pave the way for the free entry of destructive mines,” the CPDF spokesperson said.
“The government’s violation of the right of the national minorities in the Cordillera to their ancestral lands is part of national oppression, a denial of the people’s right to self-determination,” he added.
Meanwhile, Naogsan also belied the military’s claim that the NPA used civilians as shields in the Abra raid, resulting in the death of a councilwoman and the wounding of two other civilians. According to Naogsan, it was the military that had used human shields – as proven, he said by the fact that the 41st IB had set up its detachment in a village.
Two weeks earlier, on May 22, the NPA’s Lejo Cawilan Command in Kalinga province (some 500 kms north of Manila) raided a detachment of the army’s 21st IB in Balbalan town. Three soldiers were killed in the ambush and three others were wounded. There were no NPA casualties, according to Tipon Gil-Ayab, spokesperson of the Lejo Cawilan Command.
According to Gil-ayab, the ambush was in retaliation for what he described as the Army’s “atrocities against human rights.” He cited in particular the killing of Bagtang Bulawit in Kilayon village, Balbalan on Nov. 2, 2004. Gil-ayab said that Bulawit was unarmed when captured and brutally tortured before being killed.