4 AFP troopers killed in Aurora clash, CPP reports

Four government troopers were killed last May 28, Tuesday, in an encounter with the New People’s Army (NPA) in Barangay Bazal, Maria Aurora town in Aurora Province, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) reported.

In an announcement on its website, the CPP said the clash was the third in a week that is part of the ongoing operations by the 84th Infantry Battalion-Philippine Army (IBPA) against Communist guerrillas in the province.

The CPP said the NPA suffered no casualty and were able to maneuver to safety after the clash.

“Even after the gunfight was over and the people’s army has withdrawn, the soldiers continued to fire indiscriminately in random directions,” the CPP added.

The 84th IBPA has not issued a statement on the incident on its Facebook page.

The 703rd Agila Brigade of the 7th Infantry Division however said the May 22 clash in Barangay Toytoyan between the 91st Infantry Battalion and the NPA fighters resulted in the wounding of a government trooper.

The army unit told Inquirer.net that it saw “heavy bloodstains” on the NPA’s withdrawal route.

It also claimed it recovered a M14 rifle that belonged to an NPA fighter in the May 21 clash.

Scores of civilians evacuate from AFP’s bombing operations in Aurora Province. (Altermidya photo)

Massive evacuation after bombings

Reports from human rights organization Karapatan-Central Luzon (CL) said the ongoing military operations started last May 20 at Barangay Toytoyan, Dipaculao town when combined Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP) launched operations against the NPA in the area.

At around six o’clock of May 21, two helicopters of the 91st IBPA of the 7th Infantry Division conducted search operations in barangays Diamanen, Toytoyan, Puangi, Dimabuno, Salay, and Sapang Kawayan in Dipaculao, the group said.

The helicopters then conducted bombing operations in barangays Bannawag, Bayanihan, and Cadayacan in the adjacent town of Maria Aurora, Karapatan-CL added.

The AFP said its heightened military operations launched at the start of 2024 is to go after so-called NPA remnants, claiming they are about to decisively “wipe-out” out the revolutionary army by year-end.

The same claim however has been repeated for decades, without the promised results.

Civilians pile themselves and their belongings on tricycles on their way to evacuation centers following AFP’s bombing operations near their communities in Aurora Province. (Altermidya photo)

Rules of war

The CPP said that the AFP operations have displaced and terrorized the civilian population, disrupting their livelihoods in the village and forests.

Since May 20, up to 3,633 families have been affected by the non-stop combat operations of the AFP in the area, the group said, quoting a May 25 Department of Social Welfare and Development report report.

Aurora Gov. Reynante Tolentino said they evacuated affected residents to the Dipaculao Sports Complex, Mega Evacuation Center, and Ipil Evacuation Center.

The Maria Aurora local government suspended classes at all after the second clash last May 22.

In its report, Karapatan-CL condemned the “indiscriminate firing and bombing operations” of the AFP and PNP in the area, calling on government forces to abide by International Humanitarian Law.

It added that as early as April, government troopers have prevented civilians from attending to their farms as part of “focused military operations” in the province.

The National Council of Churches of the Philippines also urged the government military to stop its bombing operations that affect civilians.

“The trembling effects of these bombs instilled fear among residents that resulted in mass evacuations, disrupted school classes, and prevented farmer residents from tending to their fields,” the fellowship of the biggest Protestant churches in the Philippines said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)