By Alexis Romero (philstar.com)
MANILA, Philippines – The military on Monday scored the New People’s Army (NPA) for supposedly resorting to propaganda to cover up its atrocities and denied conducting air strikes in Abra.
Armed Forces spokesman Brig. Gen. Domingo Tutaan Jr. said the atrocities of the insurgents, not the actions of soldiers, are making it hard for the peace talks to proceed.
“This is just a matter of covering up the atrocities they (NPA) have done. We have seen this in the past several incidents where they attacked civilian communities,” Tutaan said.
“It (prospects of the peace talks) is dim because of the NPA’s continuing violence… We have to sit down, talk peace but let us not undertake any form of violence most especially against civilians,” he added.
Tutaan also claimed that ground troops in Abra were only given “close air support” and that no air strike was conducted as claimed by the rebels.
“It’s not even a form of aerial bombardment. It is a release, it is what we call close air support against those armed men of the NPA,” he said.
Nation ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1 The Army field commander based in Abra, however, used the term “air strike” in his report to Armed Forces chief Gen. Emmanuel Bautista.
In a text message, Brig. Gen. Hernando Iriberri, chief of the Army’s 503rd brigade, said he had been informed by Malibcong, Abra MayorBenido Bacuyag that “there was no civilian casualty as a result of the air strike.”
Despite the seemingly contradictory reports, Tutaan, said the operation was only a close air support, which he described as the delivery of two rockets to mark an area.
“This is to allow the troops on the ground to be able the focused military operation,” he said.
Media reports have quoted NPA local spokesman Diego Wadagan as saying that the chances of peace talks with the government are dim due to the abuses of the military.
The NPA also accused the military of conducting an air strike in Malibcong on May 31 that injured two minors.
Military officials, however, denied that their recent operations in Abra had harmed civilians and dismissed the NPA claim as propaganda.