LIEUTENANT Colonel Thomas Baluga of the Philippine Army’s 24th Infantry Battalion confirmed a continuing military operation in Malibcong, Abra but denied the military is behind the torching of mountains.
Baluga in a phone interview said military pursuit operations has been ongoing since the early morning of Monday in a bid to pursue their targets.
“I am responsible for all operations,” said the army official
However, Baluga said allegations by locals and civic groups saying the military is behind bombings pinpointed to be the cause of massive forest fires in the area are untrue, saying the New People’s Army members deliberately burned their mountain tracks to prevent the military from keeping track of them.
Despite the confirmation of the military, the Philippine National Police remain to hold information with Cordillera police Information officer Carolina Lacuata maintaining there are no reports of incidents in Malibcong.
Baluga said the NPA’s have violated international humanitarian laws in the recent attack as well as reports of extortion and recruitment of children soldiers in the town.
The Army has recovered a detonator cord of the alleged improvised explosive device used by the NPA in last week’s ambush at the Malanas Bridge, barangay Poblacion, also in Malibcong.
Meanwhile, Diego Wadagan of the Agustin Begnalen Command of the NPA stood firm in asserting the military has bombed the mountains of Malibcong.
“Ang nagaganap ngayon sa bayan ng Malibcong hanggang Bangued ay batas-militar kung saan nakapailalim sa kontrol ng miltar at pulis ang pangekonomiya, at pampulitikang aspeto ng buhay ng mamamayan. Kinakasangkapan ng militar ang nangyaring raid at ambush sa PNP upang bigyang katwiran ang pagpapatupad nila ng malawakang pasismo.”
Baluga said the people of Malibcong is gripped in fear because of the operations of the NPA and not the military as he vowed not to pull out of the area.
“We will keep on pursuing them,” Baluga added.
Baluga likewise asked people to choose peace and not to side with the NPA.