Davao del Norte: Amidst President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of a unilateral ceasefire with the CPP-NPA in the height of the nation’s fight against the corona virus disease last week, the communist-terrorist group attacked troops of the 60th Infantry Battalion conducting community support program (CSP) in Sitio Tapayanon, Kapalong, Davao del Norte on Tuesday.
Said government troops were conducting their routine CSP activities in Sitio Tapayanon when an undetermined number of communist-terrorists said to be a combined group from the CPP-NPA’s North Central Mindanao and Southern Mindanao Regional Commands hit their position.
The 60IB was able to immediately counter the said attack, however, immediately effecting mortar and artillery fires towards their attacker’s position and employing close air support from the Philippine Air Force.
No government troop or civilian was hurt during the attack.
Last Wednesday, March 18, PRRD ordered all government forces to stop all offensive operations against the CPP-NPA to allow the state to focus its efforts in containing the COVID-19.
National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, however, advised the AFP and other security forces to remain vigilant and be prepared to defend themselves considering the CPP-NPA’s “bloody track record of using the government’s declarations of ceasefire to launch offensives” and other terroristic acts.
On the first day of the unilateral truce the NPA killed two (2) civilians in Barangay Magroyong, Surigao del Sur; 73-year-old tribal chieftain Datu Bernardino Austidillo and 52-year-old former rebel Zaldy Ibañez. Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr also reported another attack by the CPP-NPA in the Visayas.
Meanwhile, CPP founder Jose Maria Sison responded with criticism of the government’s efforts against the COVID-19 and said that they have “no clear basis yet” to reciprocate the unilateral ceasefire declared by the President.
Per 60IB’s assessment, the attack was a desperate attempt by the CPP-NPA to recover their armed members’ and mass supporters’ morale especially in the boundary areas of Davao and Caraga regions where PRRD’s Executive Order No. 70 is already taking full-swing and intensive military operations have been effectively degrading their forces.
60IB further reports that they were able to anticipate the said attack because a community informant has forewarned them of a planned “tactical offensive” against its troops conducting community support programs in these boundary areas.
The said tactical offensive was allegedly set by the NPA as a morale booster for its dwindling forces in line with the commemoration of their 51st founding anniversary on March 29.
For the first quarter of 2020 alone, a total of 20 former members and some 60 exploited local residents have voluntarily surrendered to 60IB’s Balik-Loob Assistance Centers in Agusan Sur.
Meanwhile, 60IB’s CSP team in Tapayanon has already facilitated over 5 million pesos worth of aid—not including the two (2) ongoing road projects by the Davao Norte Provincial Government and DPWH respectively—within their one-year stay there.
In 2019, 60IB declared the CPP-NPA’s Guerilla Front 34, which terrorized big portions of Davao del Norte, Davao de Oro, and Agusan del Sur, as dismantled
60IB Commander Lt. Col. Ronaldo Sarmiento expressed his dismay over the CPP-NPA ‘shamefully taking advantage’ of the situation while millions of Filipinos are facing the threat of COVID-19.
“With or without COVID-19 and despite the ceasefire, our orders remain to be that of maintaining the peace in the communities under our responsibility and we will continue to do just that. This is plain terrorism, an act of desperation. What they are doing is show that they are still a force to be reckoned with before they lose their supporters’ remaining confidence and our government’s whole-of-nation initiative render their cause totally meaningless,” Sarmiento added.