The Philippine Marines on Tuesday dismissed the accusation of the Bienvenido Vallever Command (BVC) that their troops violated human rights when they rescued two female child soldiers, including a 14-year-old pregnant recruit, from the rural parts of Sitio Karatong, Barangay Tinitian in Roxas in October.
In a statement released by acting Civil Military Operations (CMO) officer Cpt. Ellaine Rose Collado, the 3rd Marine Brigade (3MBde) said that the rescued minors can recount how they were treated when they were found in Karatong and if any of their rights were violated by their troops who were conducting focused military operations (FMO) on October 13.
3MBde’s explanation came in response to a statement made by a certain Andrei Bon Guerrero, spokesman for the New People’s Army’s (NPA) BVC Bagong Hukbong Bayan-Palawan, saying that they violated the human rights of the minors.
It said that the BVC seemed to be driven to disseminate propaganda after a spate of rebel surrenders and withdrawals of support from their sympathizers, which the rebel group confirmed when they stated that the FMOs had been hitting them hard.
According to Col. Jimmy Larida, commander of the 3MBde, their reaction is in support of the Marines and other government soldiers who have been working tirelessly to maintain peace in Palawan.
“Ang mamamayan ng Brgy, Tinitian, Roxas, partikular ang mga nag-surrender, ang makakapaglinaw kung may katotohanan nga ba ang akusasyon na ibinabato sa amin ng teroristang grupo,” he said.
“Subalit bilang pagkilala sa ginagawang sakripisyo ng ating mga Marines, nararapat lamang na maipahayag ko din
ang panig ng 3MBde. Sa pagganap namin ng aming tungkulin, sinisiguro namin na walang naaagrabyadong mamamayan at lalong wala kaming nalalabag na batas,” Larida added.
Guerrero, in a statement on October 25, alleged that the Marines’ FMOs initiated since October 12 in Tinitian had caused the violation of the human rights of farmers, particularly the minors.
Additionally, the BVC spokesman said that the Marines went too far in presenting the two female adolescents they captured to the public as “NPA fighters.”
He further claims that troops get P15,000 for each NPA member who surrenders from the Provincial Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (PTF ELCAC) and the national government’s Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (ECLIP).
“Sa paghahabol ng mga opisyal ng 3MBde ng malaking pera mula sa pondo ng PPTF ELCAC, isinagawa nito ang todo-todong panggigipit at interogasyon sa mamamayan ng Brgy. Tinitian. Hindi pinatawad sa interogasyon kahit ang mga menor de edad, kabilang ang isang 9 na taong gulang na bata,” Guerrero said.
On this, Larida believes that the BVC’s assertions through Guerrero are nothing but deception and that they are being made since the rebels are already suffering due to the large number of members who are surrendering.
“Napaka-epektibo ng istratehiyang ito ng ating gobyerno upang labanan at tuldukan ang insurgency kaya sa pagtutulong-tulungan ng mga ahensya na kabilang sa PTF-ELCAC, at ng bawat mamamayan, hindi nakakapagtaka na umaray na ang mga teroristang grupo sa bawat hakbang ng ating kasundaluhan,” Larida said.
“Sana magpasya na ring sumuko sa gobyerno ang mga natitira pang myembro ng CNT (CPP-NPA-Terrorists) dito sa Palawan at tuluyan na nilang talikuran ang armadong pakikibaka upang makasama na nila ang kani-kaniyang pamilya, lalo na at magpapasko at muli ay makapamuhay na rin sila ng normal gaya ng mga naunang miyembro nila na sumuko,” he added.
According to the 3MBde, an estimated 20 insurgents willingly surrendered to the military and local authorities in Roxas as a result of the government’s determination to achieve its aim of ending the local insurgency via the “Whole-of-Nation” strategy.