New People’s Army not behind Quezon school burning — CPP

By CPP Information Bureau

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) today belied accusations by Malacañang and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) that the New People's Army (NPA) was responsible for burning a school building in Catanauan town, Quezon province on 26 December in violation of the CPP-NPA's unilateral declaration of a five-day suspension of offensive military operations.

In a statement, the Apolonio Mendoza Command of the NPA in Quezon said all units of the NPA abided by the SOMO declaration which took effect last 24-26 December and 31 December up to today.

"There is strong suspicion that the torching of the Catanauan school building was a psywar operation of disguised personnel of the AFP itself. The torching was so contrived to make it appear that it was carried out by the NPA," said the CPP, pointing out how the covert perpetrators even inverted the Philippine flag in the school premises. "It was a desperate attempt to taint the name of the NPA by making it appear that it not only violated its own ceasefire declaration but also destroyed public property much needed by the townspeople, especially their schoolgoers."

According to the CPP, NPA units nationwide strictly observed their unilateral SOMO declaration and made use of the situation to celebrate the CPP's 41st founding anniversary and to meet the new year with their families and the masses.

One of the biggest gatherings was held at Marihatag, Surigao del Sur where hundreds of NPA Red fighters were joined by a big number of supporters and guests in a celebration led by the National Democratic Front-Mindanao.

The NDF observed that the AFP took advantage of the NPA SOMO by carrying out intelligence and surveillance operations, and by launching combat manuevers and threatening actions against the NPA and its supporters. NDF-Mindanao spokesperson Jorge Madlos ("Ka Oris") said that in the early hours of 26 December, the Philippine Army's 58th Infantry Battalion deployed troops and several tanks along the highway leading to and around the venue of the anniversary celebration in Surigao del Sur.

Combat troops of the 58th IB manuevered closer early in the afternoon in complete disregard for the safety of the hundreds of guests. In order to prevent any untoward incident that may endanger the guests, the celebrations had to be cut short by mid-afternoon.

The CPP said it is still awaiting reports from different regions regarding the five-day SOMO declaration.