PhilArmy drops counter-insurgency leaflets on towns on Easter Sunday, earns condemnations

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.

Photo by Beverly Longid via Twitter.

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.

Photo by B. Longid via Twitter.

“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.

One of Beverly Longid’s tweets on the incident.

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)

Soldiers sow fear in Mountain Province village

By Kimberlie Ngabit-Quitasol 

BESAO, Mountain Province—Government soldiers occupying houses in Sitio Dandanac, Barangay Tamboan in Besao, Mountain Province are restricting the movement of village folk and causing fear among residents, a human rights fact-finding team said.

A community elder who spoke to the team Thursday, August 9, said the soldiers started occupying several houses in the community after a fire fight with the New People’s Army last month.

The elder requested not to be named due to fear of reprisals.

“The mere sight of the soldiers and their guns makes us feel uneasy and unsafe that we have become afraid to move around or even go to our rice fields,” the elder told the human rights team.

The elder said the soldiers has also required villagers to secure a “safety conduct pass” and government issued identification cards before being allowed to tend to their crops in their communal forest.

“It would be best if the soldiers would leave, but since it seems like that is not happening soon, we have to deal with our fear,” the elder said.

‘Community Service Program’

First Lieutenant Jade Gabino of the 81st Infantry Battallion of the Philippine Army said they were merely implementing security measures.

Gabino added they asked barangay officials for a list of residents whose farms are in the mountains and were given 72 names.

Those not in the list will be questioned, he added.

Gabino said they are not leaving anytime soon as their Community Service Program has yet to be concluded.

He said that the program was already approved through an executive order signed by the governor of Mountain Province.

He explained that soldiers will facilitate the implementation of local government programs such as medical missions, adding that some agencies are afraid to go to Dandanac due to the presence of armed groups.

Guns and military gear under a house occupied by 81st IBPA troopers in Sitio Dandanac, Besao, Mountain Province. (Photo by Sarah Dekdeken/Cordillera Peoples Alliance)

Delayed harvest, delayed planting

Farmers interviewed by the human rights team said that soldiers demand presentation of identification cards or resident certificates before being allowed to go to their farms.

“We have no choice but to comply because we have to tend to our farms and bring home our harvest or the rains would damage them,” one of the farmers said. “We have to eat,” he added.

The farmers said their rice harvest was reduced by half because of the military’s presence in their village. They added that the next planting season might even be delayed as a result.

The Mountain Province Human Rights Advocates (MPHRA) said several Sitio Dandanac farmers have yet harvest rice due to the military operations.

Fr. Joseph Requino, MPHRA chairperson said that the “safety conduct pass” policy is meant to secure soldiers and not civilians.

He said villagers know each other and can easily identify outsiders while the soldiers could not.

The human rights fact-finding mission was held in time for the commemoration of International Indigenous Peoples Day 2018. #