• GILBERT P. BAYORAN
The Army’s 3rd Infantry Division reported that the New People’s Army perpetrated 51 violent incidents in Negros Island alone, from 2022 up to August 9 this year, which resulted in the death of 34 civilians, five Army soldiers, three former rebels, four barangay officials, and a police officer
Of the 34 slain civilians, 22 were suspected as military informants, according to a military report.
Brig. Gen. Orlando Edralin, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, who yesterday attended a press briefing organized by the National Task Force on Ending Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF ELCAC) at the Provincial Capitol Social Hall in Bacolod City, noted that almost all the killings were claimed by the New People’s Army, as published in their social media accounts.
Edralin noted that the increase in numbers of civilians being liquidated also came in the wake of increased encounters between NPA remnants and Army soldiers, where many rebels died, including their leaders.
According to Edralin, their admission of responsibility for killings of alleged military informants form part of the NPA propaganda to prove that they still exist, despite the debacles they suffered in sustained military focused operations of the Philippine Army, the general said.
Aside from killing innocent civilians, Edralin also reported the ongoing purging of suspected military informants among the rank and file of the NPA.
“It shows how frustrated they are, on their current situation,” he added.
Military records further showed that eight heavy equipment and cargo trucks were burned by the NPA
In a statement distributed by the 3ID during the NTF ELCAC press briefing, it said that atrocities perpetrated by the NPA led to losing of millions of pesos in investments by their respective owners, and delays in the completion of infrastructure projects that could have helped alleviate the lives of the people, especially those in far flung areas.
But most importantly, the family of the victims of NPA atrocities have long been seeking justice for the death of their loved ones, it added.
In his speech, Gov. Eugenio Jose Lacson urged Negrenses in conflict with the law to consider their path.
“The cycle of violence, the destruction of civilian properties, and the loss of innocent lives only deepen the wounds of our society and hinder the progress we collectively work for,” Lacson said.
He expressed his concern, especially the state of children involved in the armed conflicts who find themselves caught in the crossfire of doctrines and ideologies that may not yet fully understand.
“Our role is to work tirelessly for their safety, wellbeing, and a hopeful future”, Lacson said.
He also called upon stakeholders to bring an end violence and conflict, as well as cultivate an environment where dialogue and understanding can overcome hostility.
Maj. Gen. Marion Sison recently met with San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza, to ask for his support in the Philippine Army’s peace and development efforts in Negros Island, which Brig. Gen. Joey Escanillas, 302nd Infantry Brigade commander, said he will also duplicate in Dumaguete City.
Representatives of the Commission on Human Rights, Department of Interior and Local Government, National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, Philippine National Police, RTF 6 ELCAC, Calatrava Mayor Marilyn Era, and Kabankalan City Mayor Benjie Miranda reiterated their pledge to support the whole nation approach in ending the more than five decades of insurgency problem in the area of Visayas.
Of the five NPA guerilla fronts in Negros Island, the 3ID reported that it has dismantled three, while the two remaining ones have been categorized as “weakened.”
As of the third quarter of 2023, the NPA has still an estimated 53 combatants, with 197 firearms, according to the report.*