THE New People’s Army (NPA) admitted on Wednesday, December 4, that they were the armed men who harassed health workers who were on their way to hold oral polio vaccination in a hinterland community in Kitcharao town, Agusan del Norte.
Ka Oto, spokesperson of the Guerilla Front 16 of the NPA, said they did not know that health workers were inside the vehicle that they fired upon.
“Ang kamatuoran ang BHW (barangay health workers) naa sa multicab, ang army naa sa Innova, pero ulahi ng nahibaloan nga nagsakay pud ang midwife niadtong sakyanan (The truth is the BHWs are in the multicab while the army is in the Innova but we found out late that the midwife was also in that vehicle),” he said.
Ka Oto said there is no need for police and military to escort health workers.
“Gipasalig namo nga walay mahitabo sa ila. Pero kung mamugos sila nga mag-escort, dili sila mosagol sa mga armado,” he added.
(We ensure their safety that nothing will happen to them but if they insist on escorts, they should not be with the armed personnel)
He said the arrival of the health workers also came at a time when they were on high alert due to the combat operations launched by the 4th Infantry Division (4ID).
A report from Kitcharao Municipal Police Station said the head nurse of the municipal health office in the area and a midwife were on board the vehicle when fired upon by the NPA members.
4ID spokesperson Captain Reggie Go condemned what he called a heinous act and said the rebels committed a violation of the International Humanitarian Law.
“Lahat basta civilian or non-combatant, hindi kasali at hindi dapat targets. Ang ilang gibuhat is a crime at makakasuhan sila ng frustrated murder at violation sa IHL,” Go said.
The Department of Health-Caraga region for its part announced that the polio vaccination in Kitcharao town will continue despite the incident.
Also, the Police Regional Office (PRO) in Caraga Region condemned the harassment of the health workers.
“The NPA does not spare from their cruelty health workers who were in the area to cater to the health needs of the people,” the PRO-Caraga said in a statement.