Masbate OK despite NPA attacks - PA
By Ana-liza Macatangay
PILI, CAMARINES SUR --- “The situation in Masbate right now with regard to armed conflict is still manageable. We’re on the top of the situation. Enough pa rin ang forces natin doon kasama ang kapulisan. Bagamat sunod-sunod ang mga pag atake nila sa ngayon, they are just trying to project na malakas pa sila, pero sa katunayan, konti nalang sila o higit na mas mahina na sila kompara noong mga nakalipas,” Division Public Affairs Office (DPAO) Chief Major Frank Roldan said.
The DPAO Chief made this statement following two consecutive Communist Terrorist Group (CTG) attacks on the military forces, using the prohibited anti-personnel mines (APMs) in Barangay Locso-an in Placer and Brgy. Gaid, Dimasalang, both in Masbate on March 22, Wednesday.
These attacks were done in broad daylight when there is an ongoing class in the nearby school. Students and teachers who were startled by the sudden exchange of fire between the military forces and CTG members experienced trauma and panic as a result of the incidents.
In a press statement released by the Department of National Defense thru Director Arsenio R. Andolong, he said that they “vehemently condemned the recent series of violent acts perpetrated by the Communist Terrorist Group (CTG) that inflicted injuries on our uniformed personnel and innocent civilians, especially children, in the towns of Placer and Kawayan in Masbate.”
In an interview with the Philippine Information Agency-Camarines Sur, Roldan said that CTG’s act of engaging the military forces in a fire-fight near schools and communities only proved that they are choosing to conduct terroristic activities regardless of the possible collateral damage to innocent civilians.
“These acts are clear violations of the International Humanitarian Law (IHL) wherein the civilians or the non-combatants must be protected against all forms of violence and degrading treatment and civilian properties and schools are protected from any forms of violence,” Roldan added.
The Dimasalang Municipal Police Station (MPS) mobile unit shows marks of shrapnel after an explosion took place at Purok 2, Brgy. Gaid, in Dimasalang, approximately 4 km away from Dimasalang Municipal Police Station. It was followed by gun bursts that wounded Dimasalang MPS personnel. (DPAO, 9ID)
The DPAO spokesperson also said that they “condemn to the highest degree the use of anti-personnel mines as it is a war crime and is strictly prohibited in the Mine Ban Treaty and Geneva Convention of 1949 due to the possible damages it may cause to innocent civilians.”
The Locso-an, Placer incident took place around 7:15 in the morning of March 23 when troops of the 2nd Infantry (Second to None) Battalion responded to the resident’s information regarding the presence of Communist NPA Terrorists (CNTs)in the area.
A brief gunfight ensued between the said troops and roughly eleven (11) CNTs. Two (2) soldiers and one minor were wounded as a consequence of the said incident. They are now in stable condition.
Shortly after the Placer incident, an explosion took place at Purok 2, Brgy. Gaid, in Dimasalang, approximately 4 km away from Dimasalang Municipal Police Station. It was followed by gun bursts that wounded Dimasalang MPS personnel.
9th Infantry Division and Joint Task Force Bicolandia (JTFB) Commander MGen Adonis Bajao expressed his dismay over the CTG’s action.
“Hindi na makatarungan ang ginagawa ng CTG dahil wala na silang pinipiling lugar sa paghahasik ng karahasan at wala na ring pakialam kung sino ang madadamay sa kanilang walang pangundangan na malinaw na paglabag sa International Humanitarian Law (IHL),” the commander said.
Bajao thanked the community for their continued support and asked them to remain vigilant and report any untoward sightings in their area.
“The 9th Infantry (Spear) Division and the Joint Task Force Bicolandia (JTFB) will make sure not to allow the enemies [to] do such cruel acts and ruin the normal lives of the people, especially of the students as we give our whole might, strength, and dedication to grasp the CTG and to protect the civilians from their terroristic acts,” Major Roldan said.
Andolong also reiterated in his statement the government’s call for unity.
“We must come together as a nation and people to collectively protect our communities as well reject and denounce the wilting CTG and their dwindling supporters. The DND and AFP vow to continue our campaign to rid our country of the scourge of these lawless elements, whatever it takes.”
As of press time, Department of Education (DepEd) Bicol Regional Director Gilbert Sadsad has ordered the suspension of classes in all elementary and secondary schools in the towns of Placer, Dimasalang, Uson and Cataingan, all in Masbate. (With report from DPAO-MajRoldan-DND-PIA5/ Camarines Sur)