EastMinCom says holidays peaceful

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/04 January) – The Christmas and New Year celebrations in Eastern Mindanao were peaceful except for a few attacks by the New People’s Army on detachments of the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit in Bukidnon and the Davao region, the Eastern Mindanao Command of the Armed Forces said Monday.

Speaking in Monday’s Kapehan sa Dabaw at SM City, EastMinCom spokesperson Capt. Alberto Caber said the attacks violated the NPA’s unilateral declaration of a 12-day ceasefire that took effect from Dec. 23, 2015 to Jan. 3, 2016.

The government likewise issued its own unilateral ceasefire declaration covering the same period.

Caber claimed 2015 was a remarkable year for the EastMinCom, as they managed to reduce rebel forces in their area of responsibility.

He asked journalists to provide information on the location of the Magahat-Bagani group, the group that threatened to attack media workers who would cover the 47th anniversary celebration of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

“We will not let the media be harmed by the lawless groups,” he said, as he encouraged journalists to report to the military any work-related threats against them.

“Kailangan ang information coming from the media because the bandits are hiding. Help us provide information,” he added.

Last year, the Magahat-Bagani group was tagged in the killing of Lumad leaders in Lianga, Surigao del Sur and in other acts of violence against Lumad communities in the province.

The military has been accused of arming the group for counterinsurgency, an allegation that Army officials denied.

Caber added that candidates in the 2016 elections should not give in to the demand by the rebels for a “permit-to-campaign” fee as this violates their constitutional rights to campaign and will not help put a stop to the insurgency.

In an earlier statement, the military official said Mindanao lost at least P246.12 million worth of properties and vehicles to rebel attacks.

Most of these were recorded in the third quarter with P92.72 million, followed by fourth quarter with P83.11 million, first quarter with P34.71 million, and second quarter with P34.58 million.

“In light of these atrocities, the Eastern Mindanao Command has directed its forces to institute measures that would enhance the security of vital industries, projects and businesses in its area of operations. The troops were also directed to coordinate with the local PNP; LGU officials; and the security officers of the said entities to harden the security of their respective establishments and prevent any untoward incidents from happening in their communities,” Caber said. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)