This was how the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) condemned a recent statement made by the communist New People’s Army (NPA) which tried to justify the ambush and killing of civilians in Agusan del Sur by blaming the victims for hitching a ride with their barangay chairman who is a known member of a military auxiliary force.
“Such statement is a sign of irresponsibility and arrogance on the part of the NPA bandits,” said Eastmincom commander Lt. Gen. Aurelio Balabad, adding that the military in the field “are ambassadors of goodwill and you cannot deny the community to associate with them and seek their assistance.”
In a statement released Tuesday, Ka Maria Malaya, spokesperson of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-NPA-National Democratic Front (NDF) in Northeastern Mindanao apologized for the Nov. 30 ambush that killed four civilians and wounded seven others, including an eight-year-old girl.
“Dili gayod mahitabo kung nasayod lang kami nga dunay mga civilians sa ambulansya” (It wouldn’t really have happened had we known earlier that there were civilians in that ambulance,” Malaya said.
Malaya explained that the target of the attack was Barangay Marfil Chairman Emilio Solidor, Jr. whom she tagged as a member of the Cafgu Active Auxiliary (CAA). She added that there were other militiamen on board the ambulance at the time of the incident.
She also issued a warning to civilians not to hitch rides with military personnel or in military vehicles to avoid the risk of being ambushed by the communist rebels.
“These bandits have been indiscriminately violating the International Humanitarian Law (IHL), the very same law that they are always invoking to be observed and followed by the AFP and Philippine National Police (PNP),” Baladad added.
He also said the recent incident in Agusan del Sur clearly manifested that the CPP-NPA-NDF has no intention to comply with the provisions of the IHL.
“They merely use the IHL for propaganda purposes and to protect their criminal activities”, Baladad pointed out.
After the ambush-slaying of the civilians, hundreds of barangay folk mostly from the Manobo tribe, staged an indignation rally in Rosario town demanding for justice for the victims and called on the NPA rebels to spare civilians from any clashes with the military.
Meanwhile, Eastmincom also accorded full military honors to the four troopers of the 68th Infantry Battalion who were killed in an encounter with NPA rebels in Barangay Makalungay, San Fernando, Bukidnon Wednesday.
The awarding ceremony was held at the Naval Station Felix Apolinario in Panacan here Friday.
Killed during the encounter were Corporal Ricardo F. Reyes, Private First Class (PFC) Rolando D. Dela Rosa, PFC John Rar D. Pagba and PFC Joven B. Campollo.
Baladad led the ceremony together with 10thInfantry Division commander Major General Eduardo Año.
“They have displayed the finest tradition of soldiery. They made the supreme sacrifice defending democracy and fighting for peace and we are ensuring that their death will be the bastion of peace and progress in Eastern Mindanao,’’ Baladad said during the ceremony.