By ALDWIN QUITASOL
BAGUIO CITY — At least five troopers of the 5th ID of the Armed Forces of the Philippines were wounded by members of the Leonardo Pacsi Command (LPC), New Peoples Army-Mountain Province (NPA-MP) on March 30 to April 1 at Mt. Bato and Mt. Degway, Mainit, Bontoc.
According to an e-mailed report from NPA-MP Spokesperson Ka Magno Udyao, the LPC monitored heavy AFP troop movements. Udyao stated that combat soldiers in at least eight trucks and a Humvee from 5ID headquarters in Isabela arrived at the Philippine Army patrol base in Guinaang, Bontoc.
The soldiers were said to be led by a certain Col. Fajardo, commanding officer of the 502nd Brigade, 5th ID, and his deputy Col. Sumagaysay who is the current commander of Task Force Montañosa in Bontoc.
LPC patrol teams engaged the operating trrops in four gunbattle between March 30 to April 1. The first two fire fights happened simultaneously at around 9:30 a.m. of March 30 at Mt. Bato and Mt. Degway. At around 2 p.m. of the same date, a small NPA unit ambushed troopers who were moving up in Mt. Bato.
AFP reinforcements arrived in Bontoc while two Huey helicopters strafed the vicinity of the firefight in the forested areas of upland Bontoc and Northern Sagada.
“The operation was obviously launched to disrupt the provincial celebration of the 40th NPA anniversary. Despite this, LPC successfully celebrated the 40th founding anniversary of the NPA on March 29,” Udyao added.
LPC shooters attacked encamped AFP troopers on April 1 at around 6:00 A.M. at Mt. Bato At around 8:00 A.M. to 2:00 P.M., huey helicopters dropped more soldiers from Bontoc at the area and retrieved their casualties.
“Once again, the LPC has proven that large military operations can be foiled by the NPA guerrillas’ mastery of terrain, use of guerrilla tactics, and the strong support from the masses,” Udyao stressed.
Meanwhile Cordillera Peoples’ Democratic Front (CPDF) spokesperson Simon “Ka Filiw” Naogsan in an e-mailed statement said CPDF strongly condemns the military operations conducted by the composite units of 5th ID under the direct supervision of Col. Fajardo and Col. Sumagaysay. Naogsan said agricultural farms of the villages of Barangay Dalicans and Mainit were strafed by helicopter gunships from March 30 to April 2. The said military operation escalated and expanded to some barrios of Sagada and Besao.
Naogsan said economic activities were disrupted. “Peasants are prevented from tending their ricefields at this stage of the agricultural cycle when it is vital that they constantly maintain the correct water level for their rice paddies,” Naogsan stated.
Naogsan also said farm animals stampede because of the continuous strafing by helicopter gunships. “More often than not, these animals are later stolen, butchered, and eaten by ravaging AFP combat troops,” Naogsan said.
He added that small scale miners working at the Maatung, Chakep, Pekcha creeks and Mt. Matuwe in Mainit had to abandon their tunnels and areas for fear of being arbitrarily tagged as NPA guerillas and may be detained, tortured or summarily executed.
The CPDF spokesperson noted that people complained that the frequent landings, take-offs, and hovering of helicopters in Bontoc disrupted the ecumenical mass and graduation rites at the Mountain Province State Polytechnic College (MPSPC) and the opening of the Mountain Province 2009 Lang-ay Festival.
Naogsan said the AFP used the lame excuse that their operation was directed at foiling the annual celebration of the the NPA founding anniversary last March 29.
“But the truth is the entry of at least a battalion of combat troops and the deployment of air assets in the ongoing military operation is a desperate but futile move of the AFP and its commander-in-chief to cow the people into submission and pave the way for the entry of large-scale mining companies to exploit the gold-rich ancestral lands in upland Bontoc and Northern Sagada.
The same program was seen in recent months in Abra and Kalinga where massive military operations were conducted in an attempt to dislodge the armed revolutionary forces and pave the way for the entry of mining interests into the gold-rich communities,” stated the CPDF spokesperson.
Naogsan further said the CPDF is commending the people of Dalican for bravely confronting Cols. Sumagaysay and Fajardo on their military operations. Naogsan said the farmers demanded the pullout of troops from Dalican because they need to be constantly tending their rice fields as it is the season for irrigating the rice terraces. Fajardo was in the Philippine National Police barracks that time but did not show himself to the people. The next day, troops started pulling out from Guinaang patrol base.
Naogsan added that troops from composite units of 5ID that participated in the operation including troopers from the 52nd Division Recoinnessance Company and Scout Rangers continued their stay in Bontoc during the Holy Week. Naogsan said this is possibly a prelude to further offensives in the Abra-Mt. Province-Ilocos Sur boundary. He said choppers continuously carried military equiptment to Kin-iway, Besao patrol base including parts of a 105mm howitzer.
Naogsan ended the statement saying the people of Mt. Province together with the NPA will continue to frustrate further military operations and entry of big mining companies. # nordis.net