Mercy mission survives NPA attack
Humanitarian team had just distributed relief goods to Surigao quake victims
SURIGAO CITY – An undetermined number of suspected New People’s Army (NPA) rebels attacked Tuesday night a humanitarian mission which had just distributed relief goods to victims of the earthquake that hit Surigao del Norte.
Lt. Col. Rico Amaro, commanding officer of the 30th Infantry Battalion (30th IB), said the humanitarian mission, led by 1Lt. Ryan Layug, chief of the unit’s civil-military operations,
and the ABS-CBN Foundation, were on their way home to Surigao City when the suspected NPAs fired upon them in Barangay Linunggaman, San Francisco town, Surigao del Norte.
No casualty was reported. “Mabuti nalang at walang nasaktan sa kanila,” Amaro said.
Amaro said the attackers are believed to be members of the Front Committee 16 of the Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA Northeastern Mindanao Regional Committee (CPPNPA-NEMRC). The CPP-NPA-NEMRC, however, could not be reached for comment on Amaro’s allegation that the attack was perpetrated by the members of Front Committee 16.
The 30th IB commander said the NPA-Front Committee 16, through its spokesman “Ka Oto,” announced Monday that it was calling-off their tactical operations effective Feb. 11, 2017 to pave the way for relief operations being conducted by the government and other stakeholders.
“I just hope that they will religiously adhere to their self-declared temporary ceasefire in the areas affected by earthquake,” Amaro said.
As of reporting time, Amaro had already deployed two platoons of combat maneuvering troops for hot pursuit operations against the attackers.
Military officials immediately condemned the attack.
Major General Benjamin R. Madrigal Jr., commander of the 4th Infantry Division, said it’s really difficult to trust the NPAs who, despite declaring a temporary ceasefire in quake-affected areas, launched the attack on the humanitarian mission.
“We condemn in the strongest terms possible the recent harassment of the NPA. There is no way we can really trust these terrorists. They have deceived the entire nation when they fired upon the team that is composed of Army and civilian volunteers who had just delivered relief goods to the earthquake-stricken communities,” Madrigal said.
He added that the NPA’s recent declaration of ceasefire in the earthquake-affected area is nothing but lie and deception.
“While we are in the area helping our people to rise up again after they were badly hit by the recent earthquake, the NPA terrorists are also busy making our people’s lives miserable,” Madrigal said.
“The NPA attack will not deter us to continue our efforts in helping the LGUs to bring back normal situation in the entire province,” he added.
Army Colonel Franco Nemesio Gacal, 402nd Infantry Brigade commander, said they are right in always reminding their troops to be vigilant and always be on guard as they perform their relief and rehabilitation mission.
“The recent incident of attack on our troops coming from relief distribution mission, together with a benevolent NGO, reflects the duplicity of the NPA unworthy of their own declaration to stop any attacks on the soldiers on mercy and compassion mission,” Gacal said.
“The Philippine Army will not allow this recent act of treachery on the part of the NPA to cause the deprivation of basic needs for our people.
“We will continue to bring help alleviate the sufferings of our people who are victims of the earthquake,” he added.
Don’t send gov’t forces
Meanwhile, two prisoners of war (POWs) of the NPA pleaded to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and President Duterte not to send government security forces to rescue them amid the revived tension between the communist group and the military.
The NPA’s Regional Operations Command of the Far South Mindanao, in a statement, said that POWs Sgt. Solaiman Calocop and Pfc. Samuel Garay of the 39th Infantry Brigade were being treated well by the Mt. Alip Sub-Regional Operations Command. The National Democratic Front (NDFP) attached audio messages to the statement.
The two POWs reportedly asked for reduced AFP operations and pleaded that no rescue operation be launched to rescue them.
In separate audio messages, Calocop and Garay both assured their respective families that they are being treated well by the NPA custodial unit.
Calocop, particularly, noted how the NPAs respect his religion. (With reports from Camcer Ordoñex Imam and Yas D. Ocampo)