The Philippine Army dropped counter-insurgency leaflets on Sagada and Besao towns in Mountain Province on Easter Sunday, April 12, in what appears to be another violation of the government’s own ceasefire declaration.
Photographs posted by an indigenous people’s rights advocate show leaflets being dropped on the popular mountain resort town of Sagada by two UH1J Huey helicopters placed inside cellophane wrappers that also contained candies as ballasts.
Beverly Longid, a staff member of the International Indigenous People’s Movement for Self-Determination and Liberation, posted several photos of the leaflets accusing the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), the New People’s Army (NPA) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) of using country’s lockdown as an opportunity to recruit more members through corona virus disease (Covid-19) health interventions.
The leaflets, dropped between 8:30 and 11:30 in the morning also urged NPA fighters, particularly those who suspect themselves to be Covid-19 positive, to surrender.
“The military unit deployed in Sagada is the 54th [Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army] which has been responsible for red-tagging, political vilification of legitimate organizations and human rights violations including the frustrated extrajudicial killing of Chinese-American Brandon Lee in Ifugao,” Longid tweeted.
Longid said the two helicopters may have spent more than Php200 thousand in aviation fuel, excluding the production costs of the leaflets in its Easter Sunday operation.
She said that a Huey helicopter uses up Php110 thousand of fuel per hour while airborne.
The government’s unilateral ceasefire declaration is effective from March 19 to April 14 that suspends military and police operations against the CPP, NPA and NDFP.
The Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA) denounced the incident, saying the military only succeeded in terrorizing the communities and wasting public funds in spreading “recycled black propaganda materials.”
The CPA also revealed that the 54th IB operates overly-strict checkpoints in the entire province that intimidate residents.
The group also said that the 15 alleged surrenderees the military presented last March 29 in Bauko town were “fake” and “recycled”.
“According to residents of Barangay Bangnen, Bauko, the so-called surrenderees were local residents were forced by the military to say they were NPA supporters,” the group said.
The CPA said the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) uses the Luzon-wide lockdown as an opportunity to implement its counter-insurgency campaign through red-tagging and fake surrenders.
The group accused the AFP of profiting from producing their propaganda materials and “fake surrenderrees” activities while many families are starving because of the lockdown.
CPA urged the government to spend its counter-insurgency budget on buying personal protective equipment for the front line workers, mass testing and other medical services.
It added that the government should give its promised P5,500 to affected families using the military’s counter-insurgency budget as well as President Rodrigo Duterte’s Php 4.5B intelligence fund.
The 54th IB and Philippine Army websites are silent on the Easter Sunday incident. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)