Cordillera leaders condemn NPA attack in Sagada

LAGAWE, Ifugao — Members of the Cordillera Regional Development Council (RDC) and Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) unanimously endorsed – in a joint meeting on Monday – a resolution condemning the New Peoples Army’s (NPA) attack on policemen in Sagada, Mountain Province last June 5 that left a policeman dead and nine others wounded, including a colonel.

The official condemnation was initiated by the Army’s 503rd Infantry Brigade Commander General Leopoldo Imbang, who recommended the issuance of such resolution for the security of the residents.

The 503rd IB covers the provinces and cities in the Cordillera, except for Abra province.

Imbang said the attack should be condemned, not just because there were 10 casualties, but for the atrocities in communities that prevent people from living peacefully and without fear.

Imbang said numerous atrocities were recorded in Sagada alone in the past years, despite having been declared a peace zone by the communities about 20 years ago.

In Philippine setting, especially in northern Philippines, a peace zone means communist rebels are not allowed to put up camps in the area, for the residents’ peace of mind.

About seven years ago, soldiers bound to conduct a medical outreach were ambushed in a sitio in Bontoc, Mountain Province.

Imbang recalled that around three years ago, members of the 54th Infantry Battalion facilitating a youth leadership summit in Sagada were ambushed by the NPA, resulting in the death of two soldiers and wounding five others.

Imbang reported that based on records, there were 171 violent and non-violent activities by the NPA, 121 of them happened in six barangays in Sagada–Aguid, Fidelisan, Madungo, Bangaan, Tannulong, and Pide.

These villages were declared peace zones by the barangays and the town governments, but still, bloody encounters were recorded in 2010, 2013, 2014. The recent of which was on June 5.

Imbang recommended that members of the Citizens Armed Forces Auxiliary Unit (CAFGU) be stationed at Lake Danum, villages of Aguid and Fidelisan in Sagada, Tinoc town in Ifugao, and in barangays of Aguinaldo and Pinococ in Pinukpuk, Kalinga, where a PHP4.3 billion pump irrigation project of the government is set to be constructed.

Thom Killip, a former Sagada mayor and Presidential Adviser for Northern Luzon during the administration of former President Gloria Arroyo, also suggested that aside from condemning the NPA atrocities in Sagada, a separate resolution commending the community for their initiative to protect the peace zones be issued.

“Community responses are also important. These are matters that should be appreciated, as (atrocities) degrade the integrity of our peace zone,” Killip said. “The officials and elders are not remiss in doing their role.”

Killip said before the June 5 fighting broke out, it was a member of the community, who reported the presence of NPA encampment near Barangay Buasao, where neighboring barangays Aguid and Fidelisan source their water.

He said the leaders and elders of the community in Fidelisan took the initiative to visit the area and talk to those establishing a camp to prevent the pollution of the water source.

Killip said a group of women from Sagada rescued and retrieved the bodies of the wounded and dead combatants in the June 5 clash.

National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) Cordillera regional director Milagros Rimando, who presided over the joint meeting, said the agency had tasked the Department of the Interior and Local Government to collate more data and information to support the resolutions.