New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas under the Domingo Erlano Command (DEC-NPA) in Aurora ambushed 48th IB troops on November 22 in Maria Aurora, Aurora province.
According to DEC-NPA-Aurora spokesperson Ka Rowena Cervantes, an NPA platoon ambushed troops that had arrived in response to the burning of a dump truck and a backhoe owned by Angel Palacios Constructions.
The first military truck loaded with about 20 soldiers was hit by three anti-personnel command-detonated explosives at 8:15 a.m. in Barangay Villa, Maria Aurora. The military was unable to return fire.
Policemen aboard five motorcycles came to reinforce the soldiers but were met with sniper fire by the NPA blocking force in Sitio Kamatis, Barangay Villa. Eight policemen were killed on the spot. The Red fighters also blocked approaching soldiers aboard a civilian truck.
After a 20-minute gunbattle, the Red fighters made a safe retreat.
The military’s use of civilians as human shields led to the death at the blocking zone of the driver of the Department of Public Works and Highways truck commandeered by the soldiers, as well as two other civilians riding with the military towards the ambush site.
The DEC-NPA-Aurora extended its sympathy and condolences to the families of the civilians caught in the crossfire and said it was ready to extend assistance.
The DEC-NPA-Aurora condemned the 48th IB’s guileful use of a civilian truck and driver and for bringing innocent civilians as passengers to the scene of the fighting. This is a violation of the Geneva Conventions and the provisions of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.
The DEC-NPA called on the people to oppose military schemes to use civilians as human shields to thwart NPA attacks, such as encamping amid clusters of houses or in schools, churches and other public facilities.
The NPA ambush in Aurora was a big slap in the face of Col. Victor Castro, chief of the 702nd Infantry Brigade. Two weeks prior, Castro had boastfully declared over a radio program that the NPA in Aurora and Nueva Ecija was no longer capable of launching offensives.
Castro’s attempts to conceal his men’s fate from the media comes as no surprise. He wants to preserve the lie that the revolutionary movement in the area had been wiped out in hopes of gaining a promotion and keeping Aurora attractive to foreign investors in line with the interests of the Angaras, the province’s ruling clan.
The dynasty led by Sen. Edgardo Angara has been pushing the Aurora Pacific Economic Zone (APECO) which is centered at Casiguran town. The project has been allotted P353 million in the 2013 budget.
According to Ka Rowena Cervantes, the tactical offensive forms part of the NPA’s continuing military campaign in Aurora and Nueva Ecija to hold the butcher 48th IB and other soldiers under the 7th Infantry Division accountable for the mounting number of victims of intimidation, assault, abductions and extrajudicial killings.