MANILA, Philippines – The military is anticipating more attacks and extortion campaigns by communist rebels ahead of the midterm polls but assured it is prepared to thwart such threats.
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Col. Arnulfo Burgos Jr. said the military would step up its security operations to prevent the New People’s Army (NPA) from staging more atrocities.
“We are prepared for these [threats]. Elections are approaching and for sure, they (rebels) will issue permits to campaign but we are ready for it,” Burgos told reporters on Tuesday.
“We have expectations of these kinds of incidents but along that line, we are doing continuous adjustments in addressing these adverse incidents,” he added.
The military has accused the NPA of issuing campaign permits in exchange for cash. While the issuance of permits was supposed to allow candidates to campaign in insurgency-influenced areas, the military views it as extortion.
Burgos said last Sunday’s ambush in Negros Occidental, which left nine persons dead, was meant to sow fear among the people.
Meanwhile, the military has deployed elite units to run after the perpetrators behind the bloody ambush.
Maj. Gen. Jose Mabanta, chief of the Army’s 3rd division, said members of the Scout Rangers would accompany the infantry troops in tracking down the suspects.
“The CPP (Communist Party of the Philippines) and NPA cannot escape liability,” Mabanta said.
Mabanta also called on Karapatan and other human rights groups to condemn the ambush.
“It’s really time for them (Karapatan) to come out and show that they are unbiased when it comes to implementation of human rights, may it be state actors or outside of state forces,” he said.
Burgos said the military would continue to support the peace process with the communists despite the Negros Occidental attack.
Nine persons were killed and nine others were hurt in an attack staged by suspected rebels Sunday morning in La Castellana, Negros Occidental.
Police reports said the victims were traversing Barangay Puso on board a Fuzo Center truck when they were waylaid by armed men at around 3:45 a.m.
Witnesses reportedly heard the perpetrators shout “Mabuhay ang NPA (Long live the NPA)” after staging the ambush.
The incident transpired despite the implementation of a nationwide election gun ban that started last January 13.