Activists say farmer slain in Northern Samar clash not part of NPA
MANILA, Philippines – Several activist groups have insisted that a farmer who was killed during an encounter with government forces was not a part of the communist movement — rather, he a progressive leader who fell victim to red-tagging.
Rights group Hustisya and farmers’ organization Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said on Wednesday that Allan ‘Mano Boy’ Aguilando (referred to as Aguinaldo by military reports) was tagged as a member of the New People’s Army (NPA) when he was just a leader of peasant workers in Northern Samar.
Both groups believe that Aguilando was branded as an NPA rebel by the Armed Forces of the Philippines just to justify his killing, which comes amid the myriad of problems brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Based on initial reports from KATUNGOD-Sinirangan Bisayas (KARAPATAN Eastern Visayas), the Armed Forces of the Philippines tagged Aguilando as a New People’s Army leader in a futile attempt to justify his brutal killing — an old yet enraging tactic of state mercenaries,” KMP said.
Earlier, 803rd Infantry Brigade civil-military operations officer Captain Ronald Aljas said that troops went to Barangay New Rizal to check allegations that at least five armed men were in Catarman. Upon verification, it apparently turned out to be Aguilando’s group.
Aljas said that a 10-minute firefight ensued between the rebels and the government forces. Aguilando was killed in the process while his companions managed to escape.
Soldiers recovered a .45-caliber gun from Aguilando, whose body was brought to a funeral home in Catarman.
Hustisya however attributed the death of Aguilando to President Rodrigo Duterte’s P2 million bounty offer for the capture of rebel leaders.
Last May 12, Duterte’s frustration with alleged attacks of NPA rebels on convoys providing social aid for families affected by the COVID-19 lockdowns forced him to place a bounty in exchange for the arrest or killing of top communist commanders.
“Lider-magsasaka si Mano Boy ng Northern Samar Small Farmers Association na nagsusulong pangunahin para sa tulong at kagalingan ng mga magsasaka, lalo na sa panahon ng mga kalamidad na tumatama sa kanilang isla sa Samar,” Hustisya claimed.
“Bago ang pagpaslang nakaranas ng matinting panghaharas, red-tagging at pananakot ng mga militar si Mano Boy […] Walang dudang ang pagpatay kay Mano Boy ay resulta na ng pag-aalok ni Pangulong Duterte ng 2 milyong pisong pabuya sa sinumang makakapatay sa mga lider ng armadong kilusang,” they added.
This is not the first instance of skirmishes between military and alleged communist rebels while the COVID-19 pandemic is raging on. Both sides initially vowed to suspend offensive operations to allow government to conduct COVID-19 response programs.
However, after the ceasefire ended on April 30, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) said it would not extend the ceasefire anew.
Left-leaning groups and Duterte have a peculiar relationship over the years. When Duterte ran for President in 2016, several progressive leaders backed his candidacy, with some notable activists being appointed to his Cabinet.
However, things turned sour when Duterte claimed that his forces were ambushed by communist rebels, and after activists became his critics amid the bloody drug war.
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