The Efren Martires Command of the New People’s Army-Eastern Visayas today said the guerrilla offensive in Lapinig, Northern Samar last Jan. 20 highlighted the NPA’s growing strength as well as belied the arrogant posturing of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. “The raid by the Rodante Urtal Command against enemy forces in Lapinig is a victory for the NPA and caught the AFP’s 8th Infantry Division with its pants down,” said Ka Karlos Manuel, EMC spokesperson. “The 8th ID resorts to black propaganda to cover up its embarrassment so soon after having bragged that the NPA is finished in the region. Moreover, the 8th ID maliciously accuses the NPA of rights violations to divert attention from extrajudicial killings and other military abuses recently brought to light in Northern Samar.”
Manuel said the NPA targeted the police and private armed group of Lapinig Mayor Romualdo Menzon in the evening of January 20. “The Red fighters sought to disarm the police and the private armed group of Mayor Menzon who are legitimate targets. However, the police fled without even putting up a fight while Aurelio Jullata, a private security aide of the mayor, exchanged fire with the NPA and was killed. The NPA was also able to disarm Police Officer 3 Rowena Opena, who was not harmed in any way contrary to hysterical statements by the 8th ID.”
The EMC spokesperson also apologized for the wounding of Romeo Senobio, Jr., reportedly a civilian, and said the NPA is investigating the matter. “The NPA never targeted, manhandled and shot Senobio, among other malicious allegations of the 8th ID. As a matter of responsibility, the NPA is looking into how Senobio was hit in the exhange of fire between the Red fighters and Menzon’s bodyguard Jullata. The NPA members are subject to disciplinary action if civilians are put at risk, unlike the military which wallows in impunity for rights violations.
“In the same light, the NPA did not target civilians with command-detonated explosives, or took civilians as hostages, robbed them, and looted houses during the raid. The use of explosives is meant against enemy targets such as their arriving reinforcements. It is also routine for the NPA to stop and put civilians out of harm’s way in the course of tactical offensives, as well as check houses and secure the perimeter of the operation. These malicious charges of the 8th ID are nothing more than hysterical rantings born out of sheer humiliation.”
Manuel also slammed the military for concocting rights violations and ordinary crimes against the NPA. “It’s all over the news that the military is washing its hands over ongoing rights violations in Northern Samar. How dare the military divert the public’s attention over such atrocities by hurling false accusations against the NPA. A human rights mission documented this January at least 37 rights violations by the 8th ID while carrying out Oplan Bayanihan in the Northern Samar towns of Catubig and Las Navas. A civilian, Jovito Pajanustan, was a victim of torture and extrajudicial killing by those believed to be military elements. Even children were not spared as hundreds of them suffered trauma from military operations, such as soldiers taking over and using day care centers as barracks.
“These rights violations are all sanctioned by the Aquino government’s Oplan Bayanihan. But speaking and acting like his predecessor Gen. Jovito Palparan, 8th ID chief Gen. Mario Chan blames the NPA for rights violations while his troops are implementing Palparan-style terrorism: extrajudicial killings, intimidation of civilians, occupation of civilian communities, Red-baiting progressive organizations to justify butchering them, and many more rights violations under a continuing climate of impunity. Who is now the real criminal in war? Because there is no change under the Aquino regime, the people are fighting back and the NPA is growing stronger from their support. The NPA’s tactical offensives will surely spread and intensify because of the people’s continuing demand for justice as well as the desire to end the oppressive and exploitative ruling system.”