Authorities condemned the ambush by New People’s Army terrorists on a group of civilians and lawmen in Borongan City, Eastern Samar Friday.
The attack left an elderly woman and a policeman dead while 12 others including three minors and seven policemen were wounded.
The latest act by the terrorists came as the government presented a gesture of returning to peace negotiations with the Communist Party of the Philippines in what is seen as a move to end insurgency in the country.
The Palace also condemned the ambush, with PCOO Secretary Martin Andanar saying “The loss of life and the violence experienced by the victims are reprehensible.”
Andanar said in a statement: “We vehemently condemn the NPA attack in Barangay Libuton, which left two dead and wounded several individuals, including three children and policemen.
“We can only imagine the grief of their loved ones who would have spent the Christmas season with them in good health, had it not been for the senseless act of these terrorists. Our thoughts go out to all of you in this difficult time.”
The Philippine National Police viewed the ambush as an act of insincerity on the part of the CPP-NPA to give peace a chance.
“The Philippine National Police joins the entire civil society in (its) strongest condemnation of the latest blatant act of un-Christian terror by the communist CPP-NPA against women, children and peace efforts in Borongan, Eastern Samar,” said PNP spokesperson Bernard Banac.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines also condemned the attack by the communist NPA “in this season of hope, peace and joy.”
AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said: “In this abominable incident that killed a policeman and a civilian, and wounded 14 others including children, the Communist Terrorist Group showed once again their (sic) utter disregard of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law by killing non-combatant civilians in their nefarious criminal activities.
“This is the same notorious group that masquerades themselves (sic) as pro-people and pro-human rights.”
The AFP chief General Noel Clement also expressed his and the AFP’s sincere condolences to the bereaved families and loved ones of the victims and assured them “we are one with (you) in the quest for justice. “
Arevalo said: “Your government security efforts shall continue relentlessly the pursuit operations even as we collaborate with the Provincial Police who leads the law enforcement operation.
“We urge our people to reject these communist terrorists and report any attempts to infiltrate their communities. Those murderers have no place in our civilized society. They should be denied every chance to get near our children and ruin their future.”
Andanar praised those who showed selfless acts to help those who sustained injuries during the explosion, saying “We commend the police, the emergency personnel, and the civilians who helped and protected those that they could. Their courage and selflessness are admirable,” he said.
The attack came just four days after President Rodrigo Duterte admitted that he was considering communist rebels as his “friends.”
“Rest assured, this administration will continue its fight against terrorism and insurgency for the safety and security of all Filipinos, and in order to achieve true and lasting peace for the country,” he added.
The National Task Force To End Local Communist Armed Conflict itself vowed to convey the government’s resolve to end the armed struggle by communicating and engaging with local officials and civil society groups.
The NTF-ELCAC, created through Executive Order 70 signed by Duterte on Dec. 4, 2018, is mandated to implement the whole-of-nation approach that seeks to attain “inclusive and sustainable peace.”
Meanwhile, two-child warriors who were coerced in joining the local communists and six other NPA cadres operating in the hinterlands of General Nakar, Quezon yielded to authorities Thursday, military officials said.
The identities of the two minors were withheld for security reasons.
Their ordeal culminated following negotiations that persuaded them to abandon the underground movement, the officials said.
Col. Alex Rillera, commander of the 202nd Infantry Brigade, said one of the minors was a 13-year-old boy while the other was a 17-year-old.
Rillera, quoting the child-warriors, said: “they were forced by the rebels to join their ranks and were forbidden to leave a terrorist camp under threat of severe repercussions to their families.”
He viewed this as a deplorable practice within the terrorist organization that could never be justified.
Military records showed that with the surrender of the latest two minors, five children of minor age have been rescued in less than two months.
Major General Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos Jr., acting commander of the AFP’s Southern Luzon Command, attributed the influx of surrenders to the whole-of-nation approach strategy which the government has adapted to end the local communist armed conflict.
He conveyed the military’s sympathies to the parents of the minors saying “no form of explanation will justify this dastardly act of putting Filipino minors in harm’s way” as he expressed outrage against the NPAs’ evil act of violating the Filipino children’s innocence, saying “there are written and unwritten rules in warfare that gives emphasis to the protection of women and children regardless whether you are pro or anti-government.”
Saving the youth from deception and recruitment of the NPAs and other lawless elements has been the subject of a recent Senate inquiry and has become one of the Duterte administration’s priorities.
Military sources said several “progressive party-list groups” have been acting as recruitment fronts of the terrorist group and have since been the subject of numerous parents’ pleas to return their children after their alleged “abduction.”
Burgos said the child-warriors would be brought to the attention of DSWD for proper disposition and professional attention so that the victims might quickly recover from the physical and psychological trauma they suffered after being forced to carry arms despite their innocence.
The former rebels will be processed for enrollment to the government’s Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program or E-CLIP where they are expected to receive financial and other forms of assistance amounting to almost P700,000 each to help them start a normal life.
Under E-CLIP, each former rebels is expected to receive the initial P65,000, representing the immediate and livelihood assistance from the government which are on top of the housing, employment, health care and scholarship benefits that they can avail after satisfying the requirements set forth by the program.