By SHERWIN DE VERA
BAGUIO CITY — The New People’s Army (NPA) unit operating in the Mountain Province in a statement to media owned up to the attack against members of the Regional Mobile Force Battalion 15 and the Provincial Mobile Force Company of the Philippine National Police (PNP).
Rebel spokesperson Magno Udiaw of the Leonardo Pacsi Command said the ambush happened at around 10:00 in the morning at Mt. Masini in Brgy. Aguid, Sagada.
Based on a PNP report, the firefight left one dead and eight wounded on their side with unknown casualties on the side of the rebels. Casualties named in the report PO2 Henry Dion, who was killed in action, and the wounded are: PSupt. Joseph Cayat, PO3 Wilfred Manacnis, PO1 Aldrin Bocalan, PO1 Clarence Abuan, PO1 Antolin Potpoten, PO1 Xander Depnag, PO1 Jake Paat, PO1 Yasser Guzman and P02 Regie Palome.
However, Udiaw claimed that 10 policemen were wounded and one killed in action while their side had taken no casualties. Not included in the PNP list but identified by Udiaw in their statement is Police Inspector Mariano Liban, Jr.
Prior to this, the rebels were warned of the enforcement by the threats made by PS Supt. Allen S. Ocden, Provincial Director of the PNP against small-scale miners and local woodcutters. The Mountain Province police chief announced they were going to close and bomb the small-scale mines, and arrest woodcutters in the province.
Udiaw alleged that the campaign against small miners and woodcutters “has resulted in numerous human rights violations; extortion and corruption by police officers and DENR officials; that affected the livelihood of the woodcutters for added income, and curtailed the people’s right to their local wood resources for their housing needs.”
The rebel leader added that residents of the province are “very much aware of how dirty and biased these so called environmental campaigns” are against local miners and loggers while government authorities allow the plunder of resources and destruction of the environment by outside foreign corporations.
“They are clearly violating the inherent rights of the Igorot national minorities to their ancestral land. It is the right of the people of Mountain Province to use, develop and protect the land and resources inherited by them from their forefathers. If any concerns of misuse or abuse is committed, the umili or the ili have their own self-regulating measures to reprimand and apprehend their kailians,” explained Udiaw.
The LPC spokesperson said the offensive taken against the PNP is a “message to all police personnel in combat and intelligence units” including combat operatives of the Armed forces of the Philippines who enter their area of operation. Udiaw also warned civilian intelligence assets to stop their activities.
“There is no honor in fighting against your own people and in curtailing their rights while serving as security force of the big foreign capitalists and local compradors. There is no dignity in feeding your families from salaries/allowances derived from harassing, intimidating, spying, vilifying and killing your own kin,” said Udiaw.
In a separate statement, Simon “Filiw” Naogsan, Sr. of the Cordillera Peoples Democratic Front (CPDF) congratulated the NPA guerillas for the offensive. He said combat operations of the PNP in the area “came close on the heels of the forcible closure of the small scale-mining portals” denying indigenous people of their right to earn a decent living.
“As reported by the community folks, the earnest appeals of small scale miners for them to take out mined gold ore inside their tunnels for processing was flatly denied by the Provincial PNP Director,” explained Naogsan.
He appealed to the PNP and AFP rank and file “not to be carried by and be used as pawns by selfish interests of their ranking officialdom for promotions, bounty hunting and twisted hawkish mindset.”
Naogsan also denounced the PNP for drumbeating the declaration of Sagada town as “peace zone”, stressing the government forces are the ones violating the “one-sided declaration.” He pointed the area was never spared from combat operations even during the peace negotiations where a unilateral ceasefire was declared by both sides.
Armed skirmishes between the revolutionary forces and government troops have intensified since the breakdown of the peace negotiations in November last year but panels from both sides continued to conduct back channel talks. Jose Maria Sison, Chief Political Consultant of the National Democratic Front announced recently the possibility of an interim ceasefire for the formal resumption of the talks. # nordis.net