79th IB drops bombs, falsifies reports of encounters in Northern Negros

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Of the eight “encounters” reported by the 79th IB, only one actually transpired on February 21-22 in Escalante City, Negros Occidental. The military padded their numbers to justify the brazen shootings, straffing and bombing it carried out on the border of Escalante and Toboso.

The New People’s Army-Northern Negros (Roselyn Jean Pelle Command or RJPC) confirmed that an encounter between one of its units and the AFP took place at around 11 a.m. in Sityo Mansulao, Barangay Pinapugasan in Escalante. Emarie Pastidio (Ka Jandy), 27 years old, the mother of Baby Marx kidnapped by the military in 2021, was martyred in this encounter. Joshua Sultan (Ka Jorge), 19, Red fighter farm worker from Calatrava was also killed.

The RJPC refuted the lies spread by the 79th IB about the “series” of encounters, with two martyred comrades and one farmer killed.

“Ka Jandy and Ka Jorge are not “child warriors,” the RJPC said. It is also not true that Ka Jandy was previously arrested in an encounter in 2021. Instead, soldiers raided the house where she was recuperating, kidnapped her newborn, Baby Marx, and imprisoned her in a military camp where she was raped and subjected to severe torture. Ka Jorge is also not the “son of an NPA” filmed pressuring his parents to surrender.

More mendacious is the claim that a “third NPA” was killed in subsequent “encounters”. The RJPC received a report that the family of Jose Caramihan, a farmer sowing rice in his farm in Sityo Mansulao at the time of the encounter, was looking for him. He was believed killed by soldiers of the 79th IB and declared the “third fighter” killed in the “encounter.”

The military’s claims that they had “cordoned off” the RJPC unit triggering a “series” of encounters is a big lie. The military even used two Agusta 109 helicopters and strafed and fired at least five rockets at the Trangkal Range on February 22, at 7 pm. Claims that “heavy resistance” from the remaining Red fighters, who were allegedly “only five,” are baseless. The bombing lasted 45 minutes.

The truth is that the NPA unit was no longer in the area after the first clash.

“If the repeated declarations of the AFP and the 79th IB are to be believed that the RJPC has long been “dismantled,” “weak” and “down to eight men”, how can they justify the AFP’s successive, widespread and focused operations?” RJPC scoffed at the military’s lies. Just a few days earlier, Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr, AFP chief, even praised the 3rd ID covering Negros for its “success” in defeating “all the five Negros fronts”.

Damage to environment and communities

Around 1,000 residents were forced to evacuate from Barangay Pinapugasan in Escalante City and the towns of Mainit, Mansulao, Mag-aso, Danao, and Balod, all in Barangay San Isidro, in the neighboring town of Toboso, due to military shooting and bombing. The Toboso mayor was also forced to cancel classes in nine barangays. Thus, the soldiers’ boast of “ensuring” the “safety” of the civilians in their fictitious encounters is utter nonsense.

Amid all of these, the Human Rights Advocates Negros (HRAN) expressed deep concern over the effect of the AFP’s indiscriminate shooting and bombing on peasants and farm workers.

It says indiscriminate attacks are strictly prohibited under international humanitarian law because they do not differentiate between combatants and civilians, and they result in the injury or death of civilians. The group expressed its willingness to investigate alleged fighters killed in “encounters.”

“The AFP is notorious for misreport as ‘NPA’ the farmers they kill,” it said. “Buying helicopters is a waste of public funds… amid the El Niño-induced drought and an unending sugar industry crisis.”

AB: 79th IB drops bombs, falsifies reports of encounters in Northern Negros