Military records 37 attacks from Reds, Abu Sayyaf since ECQ
The Philippine Army on Sunday said it has recorded 37 attacks from the New People’s Army (NPA) and Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) since the start of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).
“Since the start of ECQ, more or less 37 encounters happened… this incident is very alarming,” Colonel Ramon Zagala, Army Public Affairs Office chief, said in a radio interview.
The Luzon-wide ECQ was implemented starting March 17 and was supposed to have ended on April 13. This has been extended until April 30. President Rodrigo Duterte further extended the lockdown in Metro Manila, Calabarzon, Central Luzon and other "high-risk areas" outside Luzon until May 15.
Last April 17, 12 soldiers were killed in an encounter with the ASG in Patikul, Sulu.
According to the Armed Forces of the Philippines, 17 ceasefire violations were recorded from the rebel group.
Zagala said the AFP is now balancing its missions since the military is also giving support to the Philippine National Police (PNP).
“We are trying to balance these two missions… (The) mission of supporting the PNP’s COVID-19 response and keeping everybody safe, and our security and stability operations which are equally important,” he said.
He said the soldiers have been on alert even if they are doing support operations to the police.
“Right now, our priority is to support the law enforcement,” he added.
According to the military official, the AFP already deployed around 13,000 soldiers nationwide to help the PNP.
Despite the deployment of soldiers to ensure that quarantine measures have been followed, Zagala denied that what has been going on could be considered as militarization, saying that the action is still civilian-led.
“For the PNP and AFP, we follow civilian-led government which is the President and our local government units… even the PNP is not military, it’s civilian in nature… there is no militarization because the one leading the program for the safety of the people is all civilian,” he said.
“The AFP, we are there to support, we are not the lead agency. In that matter, that is not militarization, its civilian-led emergency response to the health problem we are facing now,” he added. Ella Dionisio/DMS