By Philippine News Agency
Five Municipal Peace and Order Councils (MPOCs) in Negros Oriental have condemned the presence and alleged atrocities of the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army (CPP/NPA) in the first district and a portion of the second district of the province.
The mayors also criticized the NPA for recruiting minors to join in their struggle, in response to the recent arrest of six suspected members of the NPA in Mabinay town.
These sentiments are contained in a resolution of a manifesto which was unanimously approved during the joint MPCOs meeting of the so-called BATMANAY area, an acronym for the towns of Bindoy, Ayungon, Tayasan, Manjuyod, and Mabinay.
The meeting held Thursday in Ayungon was attended by Mayor Valente Yap of Bindoy, Mayor Felix Sy of Manjuyod, Mayor Edsel Enardecido of Ayungon, Mayor Ernie T. Uy of Mabinay and Mayor Susano Ruperto of Tayasan, who was present earlier but was later represented by his Vice Mayor Sol Beton.
Also present were barangay officials of affected barangays, including representatives from the religious sector and witnessed by the Philippine Army’s 62nd Infantry Battalion commander Lt. Col. Darrell Banez and Philippine National Police (PNP) Negros Oriental provincial director Sr. Supt Erwin Portento.
The joint MPOC meeting was graced by representatives from the provincial office of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and presided by Ayungon Mayor Enardecido.
The resolution was in response to statements made by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) that military pressure alone is not enough and there must be concrete and concerted effort coming from the communities, to include social pressure and even peace rallies to get the NPA out of the area and for them to return to fold of the law.
It was earlier disclosed by the 303rd brigade commander Brig. Gen. Eliezer Losañes that the presence of the CPP/NPA in the BATMANAY area is a confirmation of the enemy’s desire to expand and create a new front, which they dubbed as CN-3.
During the joint MPOC planning workshop on the strengthening of security measures in insurgency-affected areas of Ayungon, Bindoy, Mabinay, Manjuyod and Tayasan, barangay captains lamented what they have observed as lack of military presence in their areas.
Bindoy Sangguniang Bayan member Lilanie Abanto, who is a former village chief of barangay Nalundan, revealed that on the first week of February this year, one of their barangay kagawad or councilmen was approached by alleged NPA members, while three of their barangay tanod or village watchmen are no longer reporting for duty because of fear.
During last Friday’s barangay assembly in Nalundan, fear was evident on the faces of the participants who had remained silent during the open forum on the issue of rebel sightings in their barangay because they were not sure if some of those present are coming from the left.
In fact, SB member Abanto said if she vacates the place, many residents will evacuate with her, but she is standing her ground as she urged the army and the police to make their presence felt in the area.
On the other hand, the 62nd IB commanding officer Lt. Col. Banez clarified the Army had been operating in the areas mentioned without the residents knowing in order to not compromise their safety as well as of the villagers.
He said the Army wants to avoid a firefight within communities so civilians would not be hit in the crossfire.
In fact, Lt. Col. Banez revealed they have monitored the presence of armed rebels inside residences and were given food, but said they could not just barge in to avoid civilian casualties.
Besides, he said, the Army has a special standard operating procedure being followed so as not to compromise the troops even as their presence is also being tipped off using cellphones and when they arrive, the “enemy” is gone.
The arrest of the six suspected NPA rebels in Barangay Luyang, Mabinay was a result of that procedure, and they could have fired at them at will following a brief encounter but the army wanted to prove they are not abusive but disciplined, contrary to what the NPA propagandists are telling the people to discredit them.
Lt. Col. Banez further said the Army wants to show the soldiers’ value of human rights and respect for the rights of the “enemy” to live.