Davao Oriental Governor Nelson Dayanghirang on Thursday denounced anew the series of atrocities committed by the lawless Communist group New People’s Army against Indigenous Peoples residents in hinterland communities in the municipality of Baganga, while the province and the rest of country are still struggling from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It has only been four days since the NPA harassed the IP residents of a sitio in Barangay Mahan-ub in Baganga and attacked the troops of the Philippine Army despite their declaration of a unilateral ceasefire. And in the ensuing days, the group still managed to unleash terror on our innocent civilians,” said Governor Dayanghirang, saying that the incident proved that the government should no longer negotiate with the CPP-NPA.
Based on the official report from the 67th Infantry Battalion, Philippine Army, a group of more or less 30 members of the NPA were harassing the residents of different hinterland sitios and barangays in Baganga, by forcibly taking away the residents’ relief goods and harvesting their crops while threatening them if they do not cooperate.
Army troopers, who responded to the residents’ call for help, pursued the lawless group in a Focused Military Operation immediately after the lifting of the unilateral ceasefire at the dawn of April 16 resulting in an encounter.
The clash occurred in the vicinity of Sitio San Francisco in Barangay Campawan, in the town of Baganga which lasted for about thirty minutes resulting in the death of two NPA members.
“These unnecessary deaths would have been prevented if only they (the NPA) abide by the rules of the ceasefire and cooperated with the government by surrendering which is the best way they can help our fellow Filipinos in these trying times,” said Governor Dayanghirang.
Also recovered at the clash site are four high-powered firearms, landmines, and subversive documents with high intelligence value from the NPA bandits who are believed to be members of Front North, Sub-Regional Committee (SRC1) of Southern Mindanao Regional Command (SMRC).
The Governor said that this terrorist group only adds up to the burden of the people in these difficult times brought about by the threat of the coronavirus disease. He described the series of crimes committed by the NPA as a clear violation of human rights and their absence of sincerity towards peace and compassion for the people.
The IP communities, on the other hand, thanked the soldiers who came to their rescue. One resident said that they are happy that the soldiers drove away the NPA from their land. “Naya-pasalamat kami nganaya-engkwentro, ugnayakita mayo yang armadonagrupoaronsaingonmahinay-hinayyaansilanugkawangadisa among lugar. Ugsaiban pa, silaangnayaka-kuha ng gipang-tudaknami para sang kanamiadlaw-adlawnapagkaanugpanginahanglan.” (We are thankful that (though) there was an encounter, you (soldiers) found the armed group and driven them away so that eventually they will be gone in our lands for good. If this did not happen, they would have taken all (the crops) we need for our daily subsistence,” the resident said.
Brigadier General Jose ErielNiembra, Commander of the 701st Brigade, also condemned the NPA atrocities which were committed despite the COVID-19 pandemic and the CPP-NPA’s self-declaration of a ceasefire last March 24.
“We are calling for the NPAs to stop threatening the communities for their own selfish ends. The current situation wherein everybody is vulnerable due to the threat of COVID-19 is already unbearable. This calls for a unified action among us Filipinos. The NPAs can best help by coming back to the folds of the law and be one with the people in fighting this pandemic,” said Brig. Gen. Niembra.
67th Infantry Battalion Commander Lieutenant Colonel Louie Dema-ala reassured the people that “Our troops will continue to safeguard and not let our guards down in the Province of Davao Oriental. It is unfortunate that our fellowmen who were victims of wrong ideologies ended up their lives like this. We are encouraging other remaining NPA members to return to the folds of the law. Thus, the 67IB together with the local government, peace advocates and other stakeholders to reiterate our call for the NPA to stop the violence, armed struggle and surrender with us peacefully”.
The Provincial Government, with the strong support of its partner security forces, vowed to continue its relentless efforts to protect the communities from this lawless group while ensuring the needs of the people amidst the pandemic.
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