‘Atrocities’ linked to rebels rise with 47 deaths

Negros Occidental Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson (5th from right), head of the Provincial Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (PTF-ELCAC) and Major General Marion Sison (5th from left), commander of 3rd Infantry Division lead the panel during a press conference on NPA atrocities in Negros held at the Social Hall of the Provincial Capitol in Bacolod City Tuesday. (Glazyl Y. Masculino Photo)

By Glazyl Y. Masculino

BACOLOD City – The Army’s 3rd Infantry Division (ID) has reported a total of 51 violent incidents attributed to the New People’s Army (NPA) from January 2022 to date, with 47 deaths.

The Army said that 25 of these incidents were admitted by the NPA and published on their websites.

Based on the record of the Army covering the period of February to October 2022, 11 were killed while 27 others were liquidated from January to August 2023, with an increase of 16 casualties from the previous year.

These were presented during a press conference held at the Social Hall of the Provincial Capitol here last Tuesday.

Brigadier General Orlando Edralin, commander of the 303rd Infantry Brigade (IBde), said that based on these periods, the figure doubled this year.

“Mostly ng pinapatay nila are those being suspected as assets of the Army or the police. Para makabawi sila with the casualties they have suffered,” Edralin said.

The deaths from January 2022 to present included three former NPA rebels, four barangay officials, five soldiers, 34 other civilians, and a policeman.

Edralin said their hearts bleed whenever there are NPA or government forces who are killed and wounded in the quest for peace.

On the other hand, many were already enlightened that’s why there are those who have surrendered from the armed struggle, he said.

In his message, Edralin said, “It is our duty to shed light on these crimes and bring the perpetrators to justice.”

Edralin said that the number of engagements of the Army troops against the NPA also increased.

Among those killed in Negros Occidental were Sergeant Regie Glindro and Staff Sergeant Ken Camilan of 47th Infantry Battalion (IB) at Sitio Camboguiot, Barangay Camindangan, Sipalay City; Corporal Alaster Balboa and Sergeant Jhoem Meguillo of the 15th IB at Sitio Cambaga, Barangay Yao-yao in Cauayan town; Police Corporal Jayme Nuñez, personnel of Calatrava Municipal Police Station, Barangay Lalong Captain Benjamin Javoc of Calatrava, and former rebel Jimmy De la Cruz in Barangay Cambayabo, also of Calatrava town.

Glindro and Camilan were shot dead by NPA members, while they were conducting coordination for the upcoming local peace engagement with the residents, involving the former mass supporters of the NPA in Sipalay City on November 24, 2022.

Balboa and Meguillo were also killed after visiting the Community Support Program (CSP) team soldiers of 15th IB in Cauayan town, while Nuñez was killed in a clash with NPA rebels when his team was on its way to serve an arrest warrant to alleged NPA rebels in Barangay Minapasuk, Calatrava town on August 9, 2023.

Loremie Camilan, wife of one of the slain soldiers in Sipalay City, was emotional as she shared her sentiments about the death of her husband.

In her message, Loremie said they acknowledged the sacrifices made by those in the Armed Forces.

“While there were claims of abuse and calls for human rights, every soldier has a family, and when they are compromised in the line of duty, it leaves a part that cannot be filled, the loss of a father, a son, or a husband is a pain that transcends beyond political boundaries,” she added.

She said that the death of a soldier highlights the harsh reality faced by the family of members of the Armed Forces, wherein families have been overlooked amidst the discussion of human rights.

During this conflict and strife, it is crucial to believe the profound impact on the families left behind.

“During this ordeal? Where are those human rights advocates? Diin kamo sang ginpamatay ang bana, ang amay sang amon kabataan? Bisan condolences wala,” she asked.

Aside from exercising what is the true purpose of human rights advocacy, it is only by striving for peace and cooperation that we hope to prevent further loss or suffering on both sides, where life is being valued and protected, she said, as she also extended her utmost respect and appreciation to the Armed Forces for their untiring assistance throughout this journey.

Also included in the Negros Occidental casualties were the four members of the Fausto family in Himamaylan City, and two civilians in Calatrava town.

Some of the victims of the NPA atrocities in Negros Oriental were Lucio Perater, husband of Barangay Captain Beatris Perater; barangay officials including Kagawad Pablo Ricaplaza Tabotabo in Barangay Calupaan, Guihulngan City, and Kagawad Nonie Cadorna in Barangay Tabon, Vallehermoso town; and Chrish John Estrada Guyha in Barangay Luz, Guihulngan City; and Arman Babor in Barangay Hibalyo, Guihulngan City, the Army reported.

Edralin said the increase in the number of liquidated victims of the NPA “forms part of their propaganda to show that they still exist despite the debacles and casualties they suffered.”

Aside from the killings, the Army said the NPA burned some heavy equipment.

These were three construction equipment, including a backhoe at Purok Magboto, Barangay Cabia-an, Candoni town; three units of Isuzu SKW sugarcane trucks at Sitio Carbon, Barangay San Isidro, Toboso; and two units of Isuzu SKW sugarcane trucks at Sitio Proper Barangay Tabun-ac, Toboso town, all in Negros Occidental.

These atrocities caused the owners of construction equipment to lose millions of pesos in investments and delays in infrastructure projects that could have helped alleviate the lives of people, especially in far-flung areas, the Army said.

These cases should have been investigated so that justice could be served. It is high time that all instrumentalities of government should work hand in hand towards this goal, the Army said.

Edralin said that they will intensify their operations, enhance intelligence gathering, and collaborate with local government units and other stakeholders to dismantle these NPA groups and restore peace and stability to Negros Island.

He also said that they continue to adhere to and respect Human Rights so that human dignity and their well-being are always protected and respected.

He vowed to continue to work hand-in-hand so that they can sustain all the gains and blessings of a more secure and peaceful community, and pursue a more comprehensive localized peace engagement so that the remaining NPA members can surrender and avail of the government’s program.

Meanwhile, the Army also reported that the NPA that operates in Negros Island is under the Komiteng Rehiyon – Negros, Cebu, Bohol, Siquijor or KR-NCBS.

Of the 6 Guerilla Fronts under the KR-NCBS, five operate in Negros Island – the Northern Negros Front (dismantled); Central Negros Front 1 (dismantled); Central Negros Front 2 (weakened); South East Front (dismantled); and South West Front (weakened). As of the third quarter of this year, the NPA in Negros has an estimated 53 manpower and 197 firearms, according to the Army.

Major General Marion Sison, 3ID commander, said dismantled guerilla fronts are those with less than 10 members, who are just remnants of the group.

“Medyo irrelevant na sila and insignificant,” he added.

Sison said that weakened guerilla fronts are those with no influenced barangays and no organizations in the barangays that are oriented on the other side. “That’s why weakened, meaning the conduct of CSP in barangays has already been completed,” he added.

Sison said that once the area has been cleared by the Army, the military troopers will not leave it and will continue to conduct security and patrol operations in order to totally clear the area of NPA remnants.

“Kung ano mang ginagawa namin ngayon, that is part of the effort that our soldiers are doing. It is not just a promise, it is our commitment – our commitment to the Filipino people and the country,” he said.

For his part, Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson, who chairs the Provincial Task Force-to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (PTF-ELCAC), in his message, said that the peace progress in the province has been steadily gaining momentum due to programs that promote a more sustainable path to peace by prioritizing the delivery of basic services, providing social development assistance, and encouraging participatory initiatives.

“As a people and as a nation, peace has been among our ultimate aspirations. For so many years, countless attempts and endeavors have been made for its realization,” he added.

Lacson stressed that the missions of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) are interconnected; each will always need the support of the other. Therefore, he said that a sound partnership is essential in the fight against insurgency, terrorism, narco-terrorism, and criminality.

“We did not choose this fight. However, we need to do what is necessary to promote and maintain our peace and order, and to safeguard our national security and interests,” the governor said.

Lacson said that the province has made considerable progress in peace progress, and they intend to sustain and further advance such development.

He said that in the recently concluded trade fair in Makati, they had exhibitors from areas that were once considered conflicted.

Utilizing their endemic materials and resources, they created innovative products, which they successfully sold alongside other micro, small, and medium enterprises from the province.

“This served as proof that in the province, opportunities are available and accessible for those who are willing to give up their arms and join us in mainstream society,” Lacson said.

Kabankalan City Mayor Benjie Miranda, Calatrava town Mayor Marilyn Era, Police Colonel Leo Pamittan, director of Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office (Nocppo; Brigadier General Joey Escanillas, commander of 302nd Infantry Brigade; Teodora Sumagaysay, provincial director of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG); Lemwel Casas, deputy provincial director of National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA)-Western Visayas; and Vincent Parra, officer-in-charge of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR)-Negros Occidental were also present during the said activity.