Sunday, April 26, 2020

37 clashes recorded since start of ECQ

From the Philippine Star (Apr 27, 2020): 37 clashes recorded since start of ECQ (Michael Punongbayan)

The military recorded 37 armed clashes with New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas, Abu Sayyaf bandit group and other lawless elements since the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) was implemented nationwide.

The attacks occurred from March 16 to April 23, which irked President Duterte who said the communists are adding to the problem that resulted from the health crisis.

“We are trying to balance the mission between supporting the PNP in efforts to keep everyone safe from COVID-19 and maintaining security and stability, which are both equally important, and yet the rebels are launching attacks,” Duterte said yesterday, referring to the Philippine National Police.

“Soldiers should stay alert even as they are conducting ECQ support operations. They must be ready at all times in case the enemies strike,” he added.

Supporting law enforcers in ECQ implementation and getting ready to be deployed when needed are both priorities of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), according to Col. Ramon Zagala, spokesman for the Philippine Army.

Zagala dismissed claims the COVID-19 response is being militarized. He said the soldiers are following civilian authorities including the PNP.

“The PNP and the AFP, especially us the Philippine Army, follow a civilian-led government, which is the President and our local government units,” Zagala said.

He said the Army deployed 12,600 troopers, specifically for ECQ duties to support the PNP nationwide.
‘Don’t expect ceasefire’

Due to continuous attacks against the security forces, the communists should not expect the government to declare a ceasefire during the quarantine period, Malacañang said yesterday.

President Duterte declared a ceasefire with the rebels from March 19 to April 15 to allow the police and the military to implement quarantine protocols imposed to contain the COVID-19.

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) declared its own ceasefire, which started on March 26.

The CPP extended the ceasefire until April 30 after the government prolonged the Luzon-wide quarantine until the same day.

The government has not reciprocated the ceasefire extension.

“The ceasefire declared by the government is finished and it was not yet renewed. With the continuous attacks by the NPA, they should not expect an extension. That is a decision to be made by the President,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque told radio station dzBB yesterday.

The military said the NPA, the armed wing of the communists group, committed atrocities during the ceasefire period, including in Rizal, Surigao, and Davao City.

The latest incident attributed to the rebels was the assault against government personnel in Masbate on Friday.

Duterte has threatened to declare martial law if the NPA continues to launch offensives and disrupt the government’s relief efforts.

Roque lamented that the guerrillas attacked even those who were involved in the distribution of aid to communities affected by the quarantine.

Troopers from the Army’s 20th Infantry Battalion (IB) overran a rebel camp following a brief firefight in Catubig, Northern Samar on Saturday.

Lt. Col. Juan Gullem, chief of the 20th IB, said no casualties were reported from both sides.

The soldiers were responding to reports about the disruption of the distribution of financial aid to residents in the area.

The rebels retreated toward the mountain, abandoning their camp, which can accommodate at least 40 people.

The camp had a multi-purpose hall, 11 bunkers, 19 makeshift tents, comfort room, kitchen and three guard posts.

Troopers recovered from the camp several rifles, improvised explosive devices, a grenade, phone, backpacks, medical supplies, and subversive documents, Gullem said.

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