1,000 flee due to NPA presence in ComVal village

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 8 Feb) – Some 1,000 individuals in Barangay Langgawisan in the municipality of Maragusan, Compostela Valley fled their homes after members of the New People’s Army (NPA) allegedly entered their communities and coerced them on Tuesday morning.

Maj. Ezra L. Balagtey, chief of Public Information Office of the Eastern Mindanao Command (EastMinCom), said in a text message Thursday that the fleeing residents are currently holed up at the covered court and a school in Barangay Coronobe of the same municipality.

Balagtey added they the military troops under the 66th Infantry Battalion led by Lt. Col. Palmer M. Parungao have already been deployed in the area.

In statement, the military said the armed group entered the community at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, threatening the residents and holding some of them, including community leaders and teachers.

“They have fled due to the heavy presence and coercion of NPAs in the area,” it added.

It said the military is now coordinating with local government of Maragusan and Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office of New Bataan, headed by Lynne M. Dollolasa, in terms of the security and distribution of food supplies and interventions for the displaced residents.

Lt. Gen. Benjamin Madrigal Jr., EastMinCom commander, condemned the NPA for the alleged attacks and vowed to immediately restore normalcy in the area.

“We condemn this NPA’s terroristic act as it adds misery to this far-flung community. We are taking the necessary action to restore normalcy in the area and coordination with concerned offices are being done to mitigate the misery of the community,” he said.

The supposed fifth round of talks between government (GRP) and National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace panels on November 25 to 27, 2017 in Oslo, Norway was not pushed through following the issuance of Proclamation 360 of President Rodrigo R. Duterte on November 23, 2017.

Proclamation 360 ordered the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza and the government peace negotiators to stop all peace talks with the communist group for failing to show “sincerity and commitment in pursuing genuine and meaningful peace negotiations as it engaged on acts of violence and hostilities, endangering the lives and properties of innocent people.”

Duterte issued the order following an NPA ambush on a police patrol vehicle in Bukidnon last November 9, 2017 that left two dead, including four-month-old Walysha Machorao, and six people injured.

On December 5, 2017, Duterte issued Proclamation No. 374 designating the NPA and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) as terrorist organizations pursuant to Republic Act No. 10168, also known as the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act of 2002.

During the “Panagtagbo Alang sa Kalinaw ug Kalambuan: An IP Leaders’ Summit” at the Naval Station Felix Apolinario Thursday last week, Duterte encouraged the Lumads to resist NPA recruitment and keep their distance from the communist movement.

He asked the Lumad leaders what good has the NPA done to them in the past 50 years.

The President, in his speeches, has been reiterating his call to the members of the communist movement to surrender and vowed to give them livelihood and employment.

A total of 217 rebels who surrendered last year were flown to Manila for a two-day educational tour. They had dinner with Duterte at the Malacañan Palace on Wednesday.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) said that the claims of the military regarding the surrender of some of the alleged NPA members must be taken with “a healthy dose of skepticism.”

It added that government programs like “Balik Baril” Program and Comprehensive Local Integration Program allegedly used by the military to siphon off government funds by field and division commanders who recycle surrendered weapons and come up with lists of ghost NPA surrenderees, typically village-folk falsely accused of being NPA members.

“The surrender of a few individuals form part of the realities of war. This, however, does not represent a trend nor does it negate in any way the reasons that compel more and more Filipinos to rise up and resist in various forms of struggle, including the armed struggle,” the CPP added.

The communists said the people are more compelled to join the NPA because of the Duterte administration’s “burdensome economic policies, clampdown on protests, brutal Oplan Kapayapaan and furious drive to perpetuate itself in power through charter change.” (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)