SALLAPADAN, Abra -The Agustin Begnalen Command of the New People’s Army (ABC NPA-Abra) condemns the 24th Infantry battalion, led by LTC Thomas Dominic Baluga, for sabotaging the supposed peace consultation between the New People’s Army, representing the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, and the people here.
In a press statement issued by spokesperson Diego Wadagan, a unit of the Agustin Begnalen command was in the town to consult the people regarding the ongoing peace negotiations between the NDFP and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GPH). A simultaneous unilateral ceasefire declaration from the NDFP and the GRP is in effect, not just to prevent clashes between the AFP-PNP and the NPA, but also to allow revolutionary forces to consult the people regarding the peace process.
The 24th Infantry battalion did not only violate the ceasefire declaration of President Rodrigo Duterte but is also sabotaging through and through the gains of the ongoing peace process. It is without a doubt that the Armed Forces of the Philippines is against the peace process and is trying by all means to sabotage the negotiations.
Aside from violating the ceasefire by launching patrol operations against the NPA unit present in Sallapadan, the 24th IB is also maliciously spreading lies to the people that the unilateral ceasefire declaration has already lapsed to justify their presence in the community. They have resorted to lies because they were embarrassed by the fact that the people knew that the soldiers should not even be encamping within the community. They are also masquerading their presence by invoking Bayanihan activities which are actually psywar and intelligence gathering operations. If it is not like that, how come they arrived in Sallapadan several days after we have arrived? The people were also complaining that army troopers were forcing farmers to bring soldiers along to their fields so that they can help plant rice but they were being questioned about our presence there and were being accused as NPA supporters. Instead of actually helping the people, the army soldiers are threatening and intimidating them.
A certain Col. Esguerra, allegedly the commanding officer of the Alpha coy of the 24th IB, must be losing his mind when he said that they are willing to talk to the NPA unit for ceasefire negotiations. There will be no negotiations on the ground because the only negotiators between the CPP-NPA-NDFP and the GPH are those negotiating in Oslo, Norway. Is he considering himself as a peace negotiator separate from the GPH negotiators that are talking to the leadership of the revolutionary movement? He has no right to demand us to negotiate with the 24th IB.
The presence of the 24th IB also violated the Geneva conventions and the International Humanitarian Law (IHL) by encamping inside the community, in a house located in the community. Their presence poses danger for the people of barangay Bazar as they will be vulnerable to threats, harassments, and intimidation. By army troopers. They are virtually using the people of barangay Bazar as human shields and hostages against the revolutionary movement. It is a good thing that the New People’s Army adheres to protect the civilian populace and will not attack if there is a presence of civilians among the soldiers. The army troopers were also lucky that the NPA respects and adheres to the unilateral ceasefire declaration of the NDFP. Had there been no ceasefire declaration or no civilians were present among the soldiers, they would have been punished accordingly for their counter-revolutionary and anti-people activities.
The soldiers also violated the right of the community, especially the elders, to be consulted regarding their activities. The 24th IB disrespected the socio-political rights of indigenous peoples which are being guaranteed by the Free, Prior and Informed consent (FPIC) process and by the United Nations Declaration of Rights of the Indigenous Peoples. The 24th IB must be thinking that the IPs are not worth talking to and that they can have their own ways. They are making a big mistake.
Because of the officers’ greed for promotion and rewards, they are putting their own troops into harm’s way so that they can claim that they are effective in their area of responsibility. Sadly, the soldiers are blindly following their commanding officers despite knowing that what they are doing is against the people. We call on to the soldiers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to stand up against greed, corruption, and human rights violations committed by their institution and their officers. The revolutionary movement is willing to assist army troopers who wish to correct their mistakes against the people.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines is clearly sabotaging what President Duterte’s administration has been pushing for: peace, reconciliation, and unity. The fascist troops are hell-bent in preventing the success of the peace process because their leadership is earning lots of money in their counter-revolutionary war against the people. They are waging their war against the people, in connivance with corrupt and fascist puppets of the imperialist United States government. They are very much determined to undermine the progressive policies of the Duterte administration. The people then does not have any other recourse but to continue the struggle for national democracy, genuine independence and the victory of the people’s war.