DAVAO CITY – The military insisted Thursday that the New People’s Army now uses “biological weapons” to further its goal of toppling the government.
In a press statement, the Eastern Mindanao Command based here said laboratory examination of unexploded land mines seized from NPA camps in Southern Mindanao showed the presence of “deadly toxin” and bacteria “not usually found in steel rebars and nails used as shrapnel.”
The NPA unit operating in the region laughed off this claim, calling it “malicious and wildly concocted military propaganda.”
Quoting military doctor Victor Dato, the Eastmincom said laboratory tests showed that the shrapnel extracted from the unexploded land mines and from a soldier wounded by shrapnel in recent explosion had “Enterobacter cloacae and Streptococcus agalacteiae.”
These types of bacteria are “commonly found in the human intestine,” the statement added.
“This proves that the NPA contaminate these landmines with human or animal feces. We have already had a patient who is a former NPA member who attested to this practice when making land mines,” the Eastmincom statement reported Dato as saying.
The Inquirer tried but failed to reach Dato for elaboration on the alleged use by the rebels of bacteria and deadly toxin in the manufacture of land mines.
In an e-mailed statement, Rigoberto Sanchez, NPA spokesperson for Southern Mindanao, said “to insinuate that the NPA is engaged in a highly criminal biological and chemical warfare is, indeed, pure invention.”
While he did not deny the use of land mines during the past 40 years, Sanchez said these were the “command-detonated explosives made up of traditional, non-biologically toxic ingredients.”
He said the NPA was also not using banned land mines, not in the recent land mine explosion that wounded seven soldiers in Pantukan in Compostela Valley.
“The seven AFP troops who were hurt in a bomb blast in Pantukan Wednesday were hit by command-detonated explosives and not the falsely reported pressure-type bombs that are banned by international laws like the Ottawa Treaty,” Sanchez said.
In parrying Sanchez’s denial, the Eastmincom said a former rebel had testified to the use of biological agents in the manufacture of the bombs.
“Even more daunting is how one of the patients, who was seemingly stable all of a sudden entered a state of shock. We found his leg to be in a severe state of infection, with blackening flesh. A similar pattern was exhibited by another land mine victim who died recently, whose flesh quickly deteriorated and blackened despite heavy antibiotic treatment,” the Eastmincom added.
While fecal bacteria were found on the shrapnel, the Eastmincom said the blackening of the victims’ flesh was the result of “possibly a deadlier venom ingredient.”
“This is no longer the act of a human being. This is simply inhuman. The risk to innocent lives of these land mines has just been increased exponentially by what has been discovered in these findings,” Col. Randolph Cabangbang, Philippine Army spokesman, said from his office in Fort Bonifacio.
Cabangbang also rejected Sanchez’s statement that the NPA was using the “permitted” type of land mines. He said the land mines the rebels used were those that explode when stepped on or pressed by a vehicle’s tire.
Maj. Jake Thaddeus Obligado, civil-military operations chief of the 10th Infantry Division, said the NPA’s use of land mines should be stopped and the rebels should be pressured “to finally respect the ban on these inhuman devices.”
Obligado said the NPA had signed the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), which “absolutely prohibits the use of land mines.”
He said despite the signing of the agreement, the NPA continues to use the banned explosives. This year alone, Obligado said, the rebels were linked to 21 land mine explosions.