MANILA – The Department of National Defense (DND) on Friday condemned the latest string of atrocities committed by New People's Army (NPA) insurgents in Masbate, which killed and injured government troops and civilians early this week.

"The DND vehemently condemns the recent series of violent acts perpetrated by the Communist Terrorist Group (CTG) that inflicted injuries on our uniformed personnel and innocent civilians, especially children, in the towns of Placer and Kawayan in Masbate," Defense spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said in a statement.

These atrocities include the use and detonation of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) near schools and in public areas, he added.

By using these weapons indiscriminately, Andolong said, the Reds have placed the public in harm's way.

"Their utter lack of conscience truly shows that they are desperate in their vain efforts to project a false facade of relevance and strength," he said.

Andolong also enjoined all Filipinos to come together as a nation and people to collectively protect all communities, as well as reject and denounce the "wilting CTG and their dwindling supporters."

He added that the DND and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) are committed to their campaign to rid the country of the scourge of these lawless elements.

Two soldiers and a minor were hurt after communist rebels detonated an IED near a public elementary school in Barangay Locso-on in Placer on March 22, triggering a clash.

A soldier was also killed in a clash with 12 NPA fighters in Barangay Villahermosa, Kawayan, Masbate on March 20.

Caught in the crossfire

The Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU) also condemned the recent spate of attacks perpetrated by the NPA.

"These successive assaults by the CTG, which transpired between March 20 to 22 2023, have claimed the life of one soldier and left two others wounded. The series of clashes have also forced the temporary closure of schools in the area, thus interrupting the learning of students," OPAPRU acting chief Secretary Isidro L. Purisima said Friday.

Purisima noted that apart from the loss of life, what is most worrisome about these attacks is their impact on the children and youth.

"We sympathize with the students, teachers, and residents who have all been caught in the crossfire. They have witnessed the atrocities perpetrated by the terrorist group. The fear and trauma caused by these horrendous incidents will leave deep emotional wounds that will take quite some time to heal," he said.

Purisima said this shows that the insurgents would not hesitate to use the most underhanded and violent methods, such as shooting at government troops and detonating bombs near schools.

"These acts of terrorism must stop. They have no place in a humane, democratic, and peace-loving society such as ours. They serve no other purpose than to perpetrate the culture of violence in communities, and sow fear, anger, and animosity among our people, which has become the trademark of the rebel organization," the OPAPRU chief pointed out.

He also appealed to the remaining NPA rebels to stop using armed violence as a means to put forward their grievances against the government.

This strategy, he said, no longer works as the people have already seen through the NPA's smokescreen of lies and deceit.

He added that the OPAPRU is one with the local governments and people of Masbate in confronting the challenges caused by these senseless attacks.

"Rest assured that our agency will be working more closely with the security sector and our other peace partners so that we can finally put an end to the lawless, inhumane, and gruesome acts of the CTG," Purisima said.

‘Cowardly acts’

On Thursday night, the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) described these moves of the communist rebels as "cowardly and dastardly acts of lawlessness, violence, and terrorism."

"We express great concern over the commission of these acts of lawlessness, violence, and terrorism by the CTG in the vicinity of schools, which are supposed to be zones of peace, greatly affecting the safety and well-being of our school children and our teachers," it said.

"With the Chairperson of the NTF-ELCAC, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr., we remain vigilant against the increasing and worsening incidents of terrorism and abuses perpetrated by the ever-weakening and desperate CTG."

The NTF-ELCAC also said the government shall continue to deliver positive change and justice to the victims of NPA atrocities.

"We call on all its members, allies, supporters, and sympathizers to renounce the armed struggle and reject the lawlessness, violence, and terrorism espoused by the CTG and return to the fold of a peace-loving and united society," it added. (PNA)