Since December 2022, more than 1000 army soldiers have been deployed to Samar province to augment the 21 battalions under the 8th Infantry Division already operating in the region. According to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the aim of this massive deployment is to “crush the four remaining guerilla fronts” of the New People’s Army (NPA), specifically in Northern Samar.
The newly arrived troops were the 74th Infantry Battalion (IB) pulled out from Basilan in Mindanao, the 42nd IB from the Quezon-Bicol area and the 4th Scout Ranger Battalion. In addition, the AFP also deployed 550 new combat troops who completed their training in Camp Daza in Samar.
In December 24 last year, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) said in a statement that these units of the AFP are notorious for attacking civilian communities and perpetuating rampant rights violations in Agusan del Norte, Misamis Oriental, Bicol, Samar and Negros where they came from. In particular, the 42nd IB was part of the AFP’s rampage of killings in Bicol, murdering one victim every week since 2018.
Based on reports, villages and civilians particularly members of mass organizations fighting for land and peasant rights, even children, were placed under military hamlet control. Some were killed or subjected to terrorist waves of aerial bombardment.
These military attacks have been met by increased NPA tactical operations in areas where the enemy is relatively weak.
A team of the NPA-Albay Santos Binamera Command ambushed using command-detonated explosives troops of the AFP’s 49th IB last February 15 in Ramay, Oas, Albay. A lieutenant was among the three soldiers killed.
The same NPA command successfully launched a partisan operation February 20 in Cotmon, Oas, also in Albay, killing two soldiers of the 31st IB. According to NPA-Albay, the 31st IB was the unit behind the massacre of five peasants in 2020 in Bulan, Sorsogon.
Meanwhile, in the province of Negros Occidental, the NPA Mount Cansermon Command launched a sniping operation against the troops of the AFP 94th IB, killing one and wounding several. NPA-Negros argues that the 94th IB was responsible for the brutal killing of four Red fighters last July 2022 in Santol, Binalbagan.
In the adjoining province of Negros Oriental, the NPA Leonardo Panaligan Command launched operations last February 12-21 in Bucala, Canlaon City and Guba, Vallehermoso. A notorious criminal rapist convicted by the people’s court was killed and an arms smuggler was divested of two firearms and ammunition.
Last February 23, Marco Valbuena, Chief Information Officer of the CPP, responding to media inquiries about the NPA’s successful tactical operations in Bicol, said, the operations in Bicol “shows the ability of the NPA to deploy teams anywhere in order to strike at enemy military targets.”