Philippine Army hides behind humanitarian relief and election duties as shield for combat operations

Spokesperson, Agustin Begnalen Command

After Typhoon Juan ravaged Northern Luzon, news was circulated that three Abra towns, namely Tineg, Lacub, and Malibcong, have been isolated and more than 6,000 people have been trapped due to road cuts, landslides, and swelled rivers. It was then announced that relief operations will be conducted, as helicopters were requested from the NOLCOM (Northern Luzon Command) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. It was even said that the wife of Gov. Bersamin and Rep. Joy Bernos will distribute relief goods on 21 October 2010, to be airlifted from the capital town of Bangued to the affected municipalities.

Ironically, even at the height of Typhoon Juan, regular jeepney rides went normally with their business in Baay-Licuan, Lacub, and Malibcong; never-mind Tineg as the first rains have inundated the roads, as usual. Regular rides were suspended for two days, but resumed on 21 October, the day relief goods were supposed to be airlifted to the alleged isolated towns.

That very same day and thereafter, vehicles of the 41st Infantry Battalion and the 503rd Brigade came roaring into Baay-Licuan, Malibcong, and Lacub. The irony is that only fully-armed troops ready for combat operations were in these vehicles, and to date, no relief operations have ever been conducted in the said towns.

The officers of the 41st IB are real good students of Uncle Sam. The US Government Counterinsurgency (COIN) Guide issued in January 2009 states: "The economic and development function in COIN includes immediate humanitarian relief and the provision of essential services". This simply means: exploit disaster conditions to conduct counterinsurgency operations, and pretend to be benevolent, feign sincerity and help your wretched little brown brothers and sisters.

The 41st IB have even gone ahead of their mentors, innovating disaster conditions as cover and shield for combat operations.

If, along the way, their troops shall meet harm from New People's Army fire, AFP propagandists will automatically say "our troops were mercilessly fired upon on their way to conduct relief missions."

It will be recalled that at the height of Typhoon Pepeng on October 2009, the 41st IB conducted combat operations in Lacub, and attacked abandoned NPA camps. In December 2009, the 41st IB conducted a token medical mission in Malibcong Poblacion, using the occasion to safely position their forces, after which combat troops launched their attacks to neighboring communities and started their Special Operations Team operations in most Malibcong barangays (villages) and communities, paving the way for human rights violations.

Acting like a fox can be deceiving. And launching terrorist attacks and using humanitarian missions as cover is no different. The 41st IB should be condemned and punished for capitalizing on people's miseries.