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NPA offensives slap Oplan Bantay Laya; AFP is responsible for civilian casualties

Press Statement of National Democratic Front of the Philippines-Eastern Visayas
June 1, 2009

The National Democratic Front-Eastern Visayas today congratulated the New People's Army for carrying out offensives in Samar that expose the failure of the government's Oplan Bantay Laya. The NDF-EV also chided the Armed Forces of the Philippines for blaming civilian casualties on the NPA even though government troops deliberately encamp in civilian areas and facilities. "The people salute the NPA for punishing the fascist troops who are bolstering the corrupt Arroyo regime," said NDF-EV spokesperson Fr. Santiago Salas. "The NPA successfully carried out offensives in San Jorge, Western Samar last May 23, and again in Catarman, Northern Samar last May 30. At least three soldiers were killed in action and an Army officer, Lt. Philip Muyco, was also seriously wounded in the offensives.

"The NDF-EV is saddened by the civilian casualties in Catarman especially because the NPA takes pains to avoid such an eventuality. The NPA units are taught to control their fire and fire only at legitimate targets. But the same is not true of AFP troops, whom the NPA know from experience fire indiscriminately and resort as well to turning civilians into human shields. In the Catarman offensive, 8th ID chief Gen. Arthur Tabaquero in fact admitted in a media report that his troops were encamped right inside Brgy. Polangi amidst the civilians. It is most likely that the civilian casualties were caused by the soldiers, who should not have been there in the first place."

Fr. Salas also called on  the media to investigate the locations of military camps to see if these really put civilians at risk. "International humanitarian law prohibits combatants from camping near civilians or occupying civilian facilities such as schools and churches. The incident at Brgy. Polangi, Catarman is already a clear violation by the AFP. The 8th ID should be held accountable if its military camps put civilians at risk. The people have long complained to the NPA, 'If these soldiers aren't cowards, they should go up the mountains and fight the NPA rather than hide in the villages among the civilians.' The people are justified to demand their removal."

The NDF-EV spokesperson said that the continuing NPA offensives in Eastern Visayas are slaps on the claims of new AFP chief of staff Gen. Victor Ibrado, who boasts that Oplan Bantay Laya is gaining ground and the NPA will be defeated by 2010. "The Arroyo regime and its military are making up stories to justify even more human rights violations under Oplan Bantay Laya in Eastern Visayas. There will be more offensives to come in Eastern Visayas. The NPA is getting stronger with each offensive, the people are getting angrier at the Arroyo regime which plans to stay on in power, Oplan Bantay Laya will surely end up in ignominy like the Arroyo regime."

Fr. Santiago Salas
National Democratic Front of the
Eastern Visayas