Disarm and disband the paramilitaries!

The Regional Operations Command of the New People’s Army in Southern Mindanao asserts that all paramilitaries must immediately be disarmed and disbanded. Their very presence and continued operations only sow terror and disunity and aggravate the dire situation of Lumads and peasants in the countryside, especially in Mindanao.

The NPA likewise takes stock of GPH Pres. Rodrigo Duterte’s order for the Armed Forces of the Philippines to “take full control of the paramilitaries” they recruit and arm with weapons “issued by the government” as it effectively unmasks the AFP’s direct command over these armed groups. It is also a recognition of the countless crimes and injustices that paramilitaries have committed and continue to commit even with the declaration of the GPH unilateral ceasefire.

Last September 13, the paramilitary Blackfighter of the 39IB-AFP killed and looted peasant couple Norberto and Rita Gascon in Brgy Lanao Kuran, Arakan, North Cotabato. On July 30, the paramilitary New Indigenous Peoples’ Army Reform (NIPAR) headed by notorious killer Alde “Butchoy” Salusad strafed a Lumad wedding, killing Makinit Gayuran, a pregnant woman, in San Fernando, Bukidnon. On July 1, the paramilitary Bagani Mansandong, also of the 39IB, mutilated before summarily killing Noel “Ka Jepoi” Gulmatico, a Red fighter, in Magpet, North Cotabato.

The crimes of paramilitaries have become increasingly frequent and vile, especially under the IP-centric Oplan Bayanihan tailored from the US Counterinsurgency Guide. The AFP tried in vain to wash their hands clean of the bloody murders of ALCADEV Administrator Emerito Samarca and mass leaders Dionel Campos and Bello Sinzo and many other innocent civilians and non-combatants, including the Italian missionary Fr. Fausto “Pops” Tentorio. The AFP is responsible for the heinous crimes committed by paramilitaries such as the Alamara in Davao del Norte and Agusan del Sur, the Bagani in North Cotabato, the Magahat in Surigao del Sur and the Mandaya Ancestral Defense Unit (Manadu) in Davao Oriental, among others. Worse, these groups have become more abusive and enjoy impunity as they are being coddled by fascist bureaucrats like Davao Oriental Congresswoman Corazon Malanyaon and North Cotabato Congresswoman Nancy Catamco.

At the same time, the AFP, when it suits its purpose, use these paramilitaries as convenient excuse for their own violations. On July 27, during the GPH unilateral ceasefire, the 72IB-AFP mobilized the Alamara in an offensive operation in the hinterlands of Kapalong, Davao del Norte which resulted in a counter-offensive action by the NPA. The AFP later cried foul over the incident claiming that the Alamara were members of the CAFGU who were returning home from their combat operation.

Presently, NPA units around the region have reported continued troop movements by the AFP and their paramilitaries in direct violation of the GPH unilateral ceasefire. Aside from combat operations against the Red army, they carry on with their psywar and counter-revolutionary activities against civilians in the guise of Peace and Development Outreach Program under Oplan Bayanihan. They camp in barangay halls and schools, harass community educators and students, routinely conduct patrols that terrorize communities and subvert civilian authority. These combat operations and so-called civic-military operations, more than being mere defiance of the direct orders of the AFP’s commander-in-chief, are tantamount to derailing the peace process that aims to seriously address the roots of the armed conflict.

Under US-directed counterinsurgency campaigns, the AFP has actively recruited, armed and deployed paramilitaries to commit the most atrocious war crimes that violate People’s Rights, the International Humanitarian Law and CARHRIHL. Disarming and disbanding paramilitaries necessarily comply with the GPH unilateral ceasefire declaration to forward the peace negotiations.