Civilian lives ‘in peril’ as NPA plants IEDs in Agusan Sur

The Philippine Army blasted the communist New People’s Army (NPA) for putting in danger the lives of villagers in Agusan del Sur by planting two improvised explosive devices (IEDs) near their community.

In a statement on Thursday, the Army's 3rd Special Forces Battalion (3SFBn) said the IEDs were retrieved after civilians in Barangay New Salem, Bayugan City, reported the presence of the bombs to a military detachment in the area.

“Our explosive ordinance disposal (EOD) team was immediately dispatched in the area and recovered two pieces of 12-kilogram grapeshot pressurized type of improvised anti-personnel mine,” said 1st Lt. Krisjuper Andreo Punsalan, 3SFBn civil-military operations officer.

Punsalan said residents confirmed that the IEDs were intentionally placed by NPA rebels.

“The IEDs were mounted beside the barangay road less than 10 meters away from the houses in Purok 4,” the Army official said.

An Army EOD expert, who was part of the retrieving team, said the “pressurized type of IEDs is extremely dangerous than command-detonated IEDs. A gentle contact by the victim to the IEDs will immediately cause its explosion because these are pressurized.”

The EOD personnel added that the pressurized types of IEDs can inflict fatal damage to victims within the 10-meter to 15-meter radius.

In the same statement, the military scored the NPA for “continuously doing terroristic acts despite the fear the people face in the midst of Coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic and the recent declaration of a unilateral ceasefire by the government.”

It also quoted a farmer in the area decrying the "complete disregard" of the NPA to the safety and welfare of the people in the village.

“I passed by this road early morning to check my farm. I was not aware that IEDs were planted by the NPA. It was only late when I was informed that the Army already recovered the IEDs. I’m afraid. What if it exploded when I passed by? I would be dead by now,” the resident said.

Lt. Col. Joey Baybayan, 3SFBn commander, said the retrieval of the IEDs showed that the "Communist NPA Terrorists (CNTs) violated and dishonored the provisions of the International Humanitarian Law (IHL) by using banned anti-personnel mines that cause severe or long term damage to the environment," including "injury or unnecessary suffering to potential victims."

“We are battling the Covid-19 but the fact is, real virus stronger than the Coronavirus are these CNTs who corrupt the nation and take advantage of the Coronavirus crisis and situation because it is a potential scenario for them to stage a violent revolution,” Baybayan said.

Meanwhile, Col. Allan Hambala, commander of the Army's 401st Infantry Brigade, called on the public to be vigilant, saying the communist NPA rebels "are known violators of ceasefire agreements."

“They are terrorists and know no laws and agreements. The Covid-19 crisis, if not managed properly would be advantageous for them. We need the help and vigilance of everyone to cooperate with the procedures, checkpoints to stop the spread of the virus," Hambala said.

"In the same manner, we appeal to the public to report immediately the terroristic activities and the terrorists’ presence so we can act accordingly based on our constitutional mandate,” he added.

The CPP-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.

Source: Philippines News Agency

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