THE New People’s Army violated the Christmas truce it unilaterally declared after communist rebels in Surigao del Sur attacked an Army outpost in San Miguel town Wednesday morning.
Colonel Isidro Purisima, commander of 402nd Infantry Brigade based at Tandag City in Surigao del Sur, said soldiers of the 2nd Special Forces Battalion stationed at the outskirts of Barangay Bitaugan were attacked around 9:30 a.m.
“We are not surprised by this event,” Purisima said. “Although the CPP Central Committee made the declaration of ceasefire effective Dec. 23, 2015 until Jan. 3, 2016, their armed wing-the NPA continued their banditry.”
“Either they lack sincerity [in] their pronouncement or they have no firm control over their comrades at the lower level,” Purisima added.
Troops managed to repel the attack and forced the NPA to disengage. Troops immediately pursued the NPA and as of press time, another firefight ensued near the boundary of Agusan del Sur and Surigao del Sur.
Meanwhile, Malacañang condemned the incident as a “dastardly act,” saying the NPA has no regard for people’s welfare, particularly the attacks on military relief convoys.
“The government is fully determined to carry out and complete needed relief and rehabilitation work in calamity-affected areas despite recent attacks in Samar that momentarily disrupted our main efforts in rendering humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, as we increased the deployment of personnel assigned to force protection and road security,” said Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr.
“The dastardly act on the part of the local NPAs clearly indicates their disregard for the people’s welfare,” Coloma also said.
Hours before the effectivity of Christmas truce between security forces and the communist rebels, the NPA attacked another military truck carrying soldiers and disaster equipment in Northern Samar, the military reported Tuesday.
Capt. Isagani Viernes, spokesman of the Philippine Army’s 8th Infantry Division based in Catbalogan City, Samar, said one soldier was killed while three others were wounded in the attack that occurred at the farming town of Las Navas around dawn Tuesday.
“Since the aftermath of Typhoon “Nona,” we don’t have military offensive since our focus is on disaster response. Rebels are taking advantage of our operation,” Viernes said, noting that the attack came only four days after communist rebels attacked another military disaster rescuers in Pinabacdao, Samar.
“We will be on defensive mode even if there’s [suspension of military operations] because rebels traditionally mark their anniversary with atrocities,” Viernes added, noting that the NPA wanted to show strength of force ahead of the Communist Party of the Philippines anniversary on Dec. 26.
Viernes said the military truck was carrying rescue equipment to the Las Navas Agro-Industrial School, a training center run by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.
The firefight with undetermined number of suspected communist rebels lasted for 15 minutes, he added.
Wounded soldiers were brought to hospitals in Tacloban City and in a district hospital in Catubig town in Northern Samar for treatment.
It was the second time the NPA attacked government troops on rescue operations after the ambush of a convoy of Army trucks that were transporting relief goods to typhoon-stricken Pinabacdao, Samar.
The convoy of three trucks led by First Lt. Fritz Perez and two personnel from the Department of Social Welfare and Development were on their way back to Tacloban City after transporting relief goods when they were waylaid by an undetermined number of NPA rebels last Dec. 18.
Two soldiers were also wounded in that encounter.
The Armed Forces condemned the ambush and accused the communist NPA of deliberately orchestrating atrocities just so they can celebrate something on the CPPs anniversary.
“The NPAs are continuously and deliberately conducting atrocities like ambuscades against our troops who are only doing their job to assist in humanitarian assistance [and] disaster response operations,” said Maj. Gen. Jet Velarmino, commander of the 8th Infantry Division.
Velarmino said the attack would not hamper ongoing relief operations for victims of Typhoon “Nona” in the Eastern Visayas.