NPA VICTIM. A soldier from the Army's 3rd Special Forces Battalion provides first aid to one of the three civilians wounded when the communist New People’s Army fired an M203 grenade launcher in Sitio Emerald, Barangay Diatagon, Lianga town, Surigao del Sur on February 21, 2020. Army officials and tribal leaders denounced the attack. (Photo courtesy of the Army's 3rdSpecial Forces Battalion)

BUTUAN CITY – The Philippine Army and leaders of indigenous peoples (IPs) in Surigao del Sur have condemned the latest atrocity committed by the communist New People’s Army (NPA) in the province.

In a statement on Monday (February 24), Col. Allan Hambala, commander of the Army’s 401st Infantry Brigade, said the NPA attack on civilians in Lianga town on February 21 wounded three civilians, including a five-year-old boy.

Hambala said the rebels fired an M203 grenade launcher on a community in Sitio Emerald, Barangay Diatagon. The wounded civilians were identified as Andrea Gallergo, 55, Marimar Terse, 19, and a 5-year-old girl.

The Army official described the attack as an act of desperation, saying the communist rebels “are losing” support in Surigao del Sur”.

He said the attack “will not stop the Army from doing its best to deliver the basic social services the people deserve in Andap Valley Complex, especially now that the momentum is in favor of the government”.

Following the incident, the community support teams of the Army’s 3rd Special Forces Battalion (3SFBn) provided first aid to the wounded civilians.

Datu Hawudon Jumar Bucales, the Indigenous People Mandatory Representative (IPMR) of Lianga town, denounced the NPA attack, saying that it only sowed fear among the residents in the area.

For years, Bucales said the NPA has been harassing civilians in Lianga, especially the tribal communities. He also asked the government to establish more military patrol bases in the area and in neighboring tribal communities to deter NPA attacks.

Lt. Col. Joey Baybayan, 3SFBn commander, also condemned the incident, saying they obtained earlier information that the rebels were planning attacks in coordination with another tribal group linked to the NPA.

Baybayan was referring to the Malahutayong Pakigbisog Alang sa Sumusunod (MAPASU), whose members allegedly met with the rebels on January 22 to plan harassments against the civilians in the area.

Baybayan said the information was provided to the Army by a certain “Uway”, a member of the Manobo tribe who asked not to be identified for security reasons.

He said Uway was present during a meeting of MAPASU and NPA leaders detailing the plan to launch a series of harassments on the tribal communities in the area.

“The information provided to us and the recent incident signifies that the plans of MAPASU and CNTs (Communist New People’s Army Terrorists) already materialized,” the Army official said.

He pointed out that the NPA also attacked last February 19 an employee of the provincial government working to rehabilitate a farm-to-market road in the area

“We will continue our work to attain peace and development despite the CNTs’ threats. The harassments will only fuel the anger of the people on them. The atrocious acts to hamper the ongoing development in Diatagon will backfire on them,” Baybayan said.

The CPP-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.