25 AFP troops killed in a series of encounters in San Fernando, Bukidnon

Ariel Inda Magbanwag
February 03, 2013

Twenty-five (25) 8th IB-CAFGU troops were killed in action while many others, including two junior officers, were wounded in a series of five encounters with the New People's Army under the South Central Bukidnon Sub-Regional Command from January 19 to February 2, 2013 in San Fernando, Bukidnon.

We present the following chronology of events to clarify and provide the details of the incidents:

1.January 19 – a reconnaissance team of the NPA encountered 8th IB troops at around 9:00 AM in Sitio Casilaan, Brgy. Halapitan, San Fernando. One AFP soldier was confirmed killed in action while another two were wounded. Meanwhile, one NPA fighter was likewise wounded.

2.January 22 – a command detonated explosive was blown up against 24 AFP operating soldiers at the boundary of Sitios Salumayag and Casilaan, both in Halapitan, San Fernando. Seven of them died on the spot, while an undetermined number of them were wounded. There were no casualties on the NPA side.

3.February 1 – an NPA squad encountered a platoon of the 8th IB troops in Sitio Salumayag, Halapitan. Three 8th IB soldiers were killed while many others were wounded. On the other hand, the NPA squad safely withdrew without incurring a single casualty.

4.February 1 – A platoon of the 8th IB was almost wiped out by a command detonated explosive blasted against them in Salumayag, Halapitan. Only four of the soldiers were able to return fire. Eight soldiers were killed instantly whose dead bodies were last seen transported in a dump truck, while another ten were wounded. The NPA suffered no casualties. Due to this grave setback, the reactionary troops shelled the place of incident with howitzers 11 times that day. Helicopters were spotted delivering reinforcements and supplies as well as transporting their casualties.

5.February 2 – At around 8:00 AM, an NPA squad encountered 15 soldiers sent to the area via helicopter. Six of these soldiers were killed. On the other hand, one Red fighter valiantly offered his life. That day, the reactionary troops fired ten artillery shells.

Such careless deployment of troops against the NPA forces in San Fernando resulted in heavy casualties. Lt. Col. Jose Maria Cuerpo himself was taken aback by the report of his soldiers regarding the extent of area occupied by the NPA's abandoned camp. To cover up the successive defeats of the reactionary troops, Lt. Col. Eugenio Osias IV and Cuerpo aired contradicting claims involving the run of events. While Cuerpo claimed that many NPA fighters sustained injuries, Osias went out of his way to the point of gloating over the death of nine NPA fighters, including NPA Commanders Alab, Jigger and Raya, allegedly as reported by local residents.

What the 4th ID spokesperson is doing in reality is completely turning the facts upside-down. The reactionary troops' casualties cannot be concealed from the very people they mobilized to carry them towards the areas accessible to motorized transportation. Also, poblacion residents could not be turned deaf-blind overnight for personally witnessing the ambulances, trucks, and helicopters moving about ferrying the dead and wounded.

The NPA strongly denies the military's claim that it has captured three NPA warriors. The three victims are actually ordinary Lumad barriofolk. They were accused of possessing firearms and were forced to "surrender" later to make money out of them under the Balik-Baril Program. This has become a regular lucrative money-making source for military officials in San Fernando as attested by the grand "mass surrender" ceremonies, one after the other.

The AFP has developed the habit of venting their wrath on hapless civilians every time they are defeated in the course of their offensive operations, as had been the case in Binicalan, San Luis, Agusan del Sur, in Sta. Cruz, Quezon, Bukidnon and other areas.

Aside from making false accusations, Lt. Col. Cuerpo also maliciously alluded that one of the three captured is keeping two wives in the barrio. Such insinuation smacks of chauvinist outlook against ethnic minorities and mocks the vestiges of the old Lumad practice of duway (a form of polygamy) or keeping two or three wives.

The sequence of successful military actions launched by the NPA and its continuing advance only proves the masses' widening and deepening support for the revolution. This fact strongly belies Lt. Col. Osias' claim of the people’s waning support for the NPA. On the other hand, the masses abhor the fascist AFP troops who blatantly defend the interests of the oppressive and exploitative classes, especially those who grab their ancestral lands for environmentally destructive mining operations and agribusiness plantations. Thus it is not at all surprising if the reactionary troops get ambushed and harassed by the Red fighters during their offensive operations. The NPA is only fulfilling its task of defending the people's interests.

In the people's war being waged today, where all the exploited and oppressed are building their genuine government through the CPP-NPA-NDF, armed hostilities and the sacrifice of lives is unavoidable because the ruling classes will never voluntarily surrender their economic interests and serve the people social justice. Even so, we encourage the AFP to hold with respect the dead body of our fallen comrade in accordance with the rules of combat. We appeal to them to leave the remains in any funeral parlor so that the family of the concerned can make plans for his decent burial.

As a final point, this series of encounters may well serve as our modest contribution for this year’s opening salvo in keeping with the nation-wide call in intensifying further the people's war. We call upon our revolutionary ranks to further strengthen our unity and move onward in the struggle to overthrow the rotten system in our country dominated by US imperialism, the monopoly of land through feudalism and the fascist and corrupt government of the elite through bureaucrat capitalism. Under the leadership of the Communist Party of the Philippines, by strengthening our New People's Army units advancing agrarian revolution and armed struggle and by expanding further the people’s united front, we are certain to complete the requisites for the further advance of the revolution to the strategic stalemate and, ultimately, to victory.