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AFP bombing spree in Mindanao disobeys Duterte’s Covid-19 ceasefire order, Reds report

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is disobeying President Rodrigo Duterte’s ceasefire order, undertaking aerial bombing, cannon firing, and other military operations amid the corona virus disease (Covid-19) emergency, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) reported.

In a statement, the CPP said that based on New People’s Army (NPA) field reports, the AFP  is on a bombing spree and continues to carry out focused military offensives in the Bukidnon-Davao border area in disregard of the ceasefires declared by the Duterte government.

“Philippine Air Force (PAF) units under the AFP’s 4th Infantry Division used an FA-50 fighter jet to indiscriminately drop five 500-pound bombs near two Lumad communities in Barangay Mandahikan, Cabanglasan (Bukidnon province) on March 27,” the CPP said in a statement.

According to the CPP, the fighter jet dropped three bombs around 9 a.m. and two more at 2 p.m, traumatizing children and other community residents.

The bombing damaged the primary source of food and livelihood of the Lumad in the area, the group added.

On March 29, the AFP, using attack helicopters, fired at least 10 rockets in the same barangay at around noontime.

Rounds were also reportedly fired from artillery cannons installed at an adjacent barangay in Loreto, Davao del Norte province.

A Cessna surveillance aircraft flew overhead the whole day after the airstrike, the CPP said.

The military also deployed additional soldiers at Sitio Miyaray to conduct combat operations while two trooper units and three armored fighting vehicles were also deployed at Sitio Tapayanon, Barangay Gupitan, Kapalong, Davao del Norte, the CPP reported.

The bombings and troop deployments followed a fire fight resulting from an operation by the AFP’s 60th and 56th Infantry Battalions against the NPA in the area last March 24.

“The military made it appear that the attack was staged by the NPA although it was clear that they were carrying out offensive combat operations as evidenced by the fact that they have prepositioned artillery units to back up their ground troops,” the CPP said.

The underground group also said that the military raided an NPA encampment in Little Baguio, San Fernando, Bukidnon on March 29 at 2 a.m.

“Residents reported that military troops continue to operate in Barangays Kibongcog and Poblacion, San Fernando; Barangay Concepcion, Valencia; Santa Filomena, Quezon; Barangays Bulonay and Kalabugao, Impasug-ong; Barangays Busdi, Caburacanan, Manalog, Saint Peter and Zamboanguita, Malaybalay City; and Barangay Poblacion, Cabanglasan,” the CPP said.

The AFP also placed two artillery cannons in Sitio Nursery, Barangay Concepcion and another in Sitio Salaysay in Barangay Santa Filomena and have subjected the area to continuous aerial surveillance since the last week of March, reported the CPP.

Philippine Army Commanding General Lt. Gen. Gilbert I. Gapay however has only issued congratulatory messages to his troops engaged in fire fights against the NPA in Zamboanga Sibugay and Quezon provinces, admitting however that the fire fight in Mulanay town happened after his troops responded to reports that NPA rebels were in the area.

In the Zamboanga Sibugay encounter, Gapay said his troops were merely in the vicinity as part of the Philippine Army’s community visitation for Covid-19 information awareness.

The CPP, however, said that the military had been using the Covid-19 pandemic emergency to camouflage its intensified counter-insurgency operations in contempt of the United Nations plea to a global truce and in direct contravention of Duterte’s unilateral ceasefire order effective March 19 to April 13. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘Detained for interviewing protester’: Altermidya denounces arrest of Radyo Ni Juan reporter

AlterMidya

National alternative media group Altermidya strongly denounces the intimidation and arrest of Davao-based reporter Glenn Jester Hitgano of Radyo ni Juan. 

Hitgano was interviewing protesting workers from banana company Philippine Dream Farm Dev’t in Carmen, Davao del Norte on Jan. 21 when police cut short his interview and took him to the police station. 

The police claimed that Hitgano “insulted” them by interviewing the protesters, and attempted to handcuff the reporter. They also tried to confiscate his phone and demanded him to delete the interview.  

Hitgano was held for an hour, and was released only after convincing the police that he will not report on the workers’ protest. The Radyo ni Juan reporter said he covered the protest after receiving information that the workers were harassed by uniformed men the previous night. 

Altermidya condemns this attack on our colleague, who was clearly being coerced into silence by state forces who were uncomfortable with the truth. The arrest and intimidation of journalists like Hitgano is a blatant violation of media’s task of exposing the truth to the public. It is pure assault not just on press freedom but on the public’s right to know. 

Altermidya calls for an independent investigation to hold into immediate account the members of the Carmen police involved in this gross wrongdoing. State forces should be at the forefront of safeguarding rights such as free speech and expression, and not be the purveyors of abuse.