MANILA – Given that communist rebels do not control any territory in the country, there is no truth to their claims that military units conducted a series of operations in so-called “guerilla zones” in violation of the unilateral truce declared in the wake of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) outbreak.
Southern Luzon Command (SOLCOM) chief, Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade, Jr., was reacting to Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA)’s publication of an infographic and database in their website, http://www.cpp.ph, on alleged counter-insurgency operations conducted by government troops from March 17 to April 6.
The report posted on April 10 listed 146 barangays, 81 municipalities or cities, and 24 provinces that were purportedly subjected to various types of military operations including aerial surveillance, bombings, raids, military presence, and attack on civilians.
“We deny that AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) forces have been operating in guerilla zones. The CPP-NPA cannot claim any territory in the Philippines, much less assume that the barangays mentioned are within their control,” Parlade said Sunday.
He said government troops have been doing Community Support Programs in these barangays and the encounters occurred because the people would not want the NPA terrorists in their communities.
“We heeded the people’s clamor to defend them from terrorist attacks,” he said, adding that instructions to AFP personnel are clear and that is to respect the ceasefire but in the same vein they will not allow these communist terrorists to harm and attack peaceful communities.
He added that even as the military is performing our mandate to help contain Covid-19, instructions are clear not to be complacent of treacherous bandits.
President Rodrigo R. Duterte earlier declared a unilateral ceasefire effective March 19 to April 15 to focus on Covid-19 containment efforts. The CPP-NPA reciprocated by declaring its own truce starting March 26 to April 15.
“NPA-Quezon’s so-called Apolonio Mendoza Command spokesperson Cleo Del Mundo, in a statement posted on http://www.cpp.ph on April 7, criticized the AFP’s alleged unilateral ceasefire violations in Quezon. According to Del Mundo, the alleged attacks by the Army’s 85th and 59th IB (Infantry Battalion) in Quezon have been long ongoing even before the unilateral ceasefire declaration. She further alleged that the AFP has intensified operations in the guerilla zones instead of using its resources in assisting those affected by the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.
Parlade, who is also a member of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, said the CPP-NPA does not have any territory and cannot fault the military for doing its mandate of defending communities that do not want communist terrorists in their midst.
The CPP-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United Kingdom, the European Union, the United States, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.
“How will they explain the foiled attacks in Rodriguez, Rizal; Gumaca; and Mulanay, Quezon; and the attack of soldiers in Iloilo? At a time when the entire nation and our economy is barely coping with this dreaded virus, you attack our front-liners, during the Holy Week? Where is your heart? What kind of savages are you?” he added.
He challenged communist rebels to explain their use of “improvised explosive devices” (IEDs) in Llavac, Real, Quezon and Calbiga, Samar saying it does not support their claims that it was done “to help the people from Covid-19 thru alternative medicine.”
“Tell you what, Ms. Cleo Del Mundo and your cohorts in Samar? If your NPAs are hungry because food cannot reach you due to the ECQ (enhanced community quarantine), you don’t have to extort rice as you did with relief goods intended for the people of Balangiga, Eastern Samar. Your NPAs attacked JTF CV (Joint Task Force Covid-19 Shield personnel distributing relief in Aroroy, Masbate on Good Friday,” Parlade said.
He said they can just ask nicely and starving NPA regulars and their allies will be given food as Filipino soldiers are not mindless and heartless beasts.
“Just ask and you shall be given. Remember the rescue of three people buried for nine days in Repador, Real, during Typhoon ‘Winnie’ in November 2004? My SF(Special Forces) Battalion tasked to rescue those people and bring relief, (even) gave relief (goods) to your own NPA fighters who survived in Real and Infanta, Quezon. That’s not propaganda. That’s reality (is) well written in the annals of Quezon’s history. The point is that we are not beasts who will attack you when you are vulnerable. We are human beings,” Parlade said.
With the entire country suffering from the effects of Covid-19, he said now is not the time for the CPP-NPA to come out with their “cheap propaganda and tactical maneuvers.
Such actions will only alienate them further from the Filipino people, he added.
“So, my only hope is for all stooges of (CPP founder) Jose Maria Sison to wait until this crisis is over before conducting your attacks. Meantime, spare us these critical moments to concentrate on fighting this Covid-19. As we speak, your AFP with the local government units are already crafting an Economic Recovery Strategy to help poor farmers, peasants, and fisherfolks recover from the hit we’re getting from this Covid-19-induced economic slump,” he said.
He urged communists to sit down with the government for solutions.
“Let us all work together to cushion the impact of this pandemic,” Parlade said. (PNA)