communist insurgency

Clashes between gov’t troops, NPA displace families in Ifugao town

Sherwin de Vera

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Clashes between gov’t troops, NPA displace families in Ifugao town
The social welfare office of Asipulo town is providing critical incidence stress debriefing and other activities to the evacuees

ILOCOS SUR, Philippines – Clashes between government troops and the New People’s Army (NPA) in Asipulo, Ifugao, have forced 37 families to evacuate, the Municipal Social Welfare and Development Office (MSWDO) said. 

In an online interview on Friday, May 27, MSWDO chief Myla Dulnuan said 33 families from Barangay Namal evacuated to the Namal Elementary School on May 24. Another four stayed with their relatives after firefights erupted between the military and communist rebels on March 23 and 24. 

She said the local government has provided food supplies for the evacuees, including at least 40 minors, three persons with disability, 15 senior citizens, and two pregnant individuals. The local office of the Department of Social Welfare and Employment also gave family and hygiene kits and food packs. 

“Currently the (municipal LGU) is conducting various activities daily in order to maximize the time of evacuees,” Dulnuan said. “Yesterday, we conducted critical incidence stress debriefing; today was their (basic life support) session; tomorrow is recycling session; and on Monday, organic fertilizer production,” she said. 

She added that the LGU also lined up a sports clinic for kids as soon as they complete gathering the equipment. Other activities will depend if the evacuation continues. 

In a Facebook post, former Ifugao governor and lawmaker Teddy Baguilat, Jr. appealed for donations for the evacuees. 

“I have friends who are donating but it would be good to also have Ifugaos in the province to give donations to MSWDO Myla Dulnuan or to Marlon Martin,” he said. 

Aside from nutritious foods and cash, Baguilat also asked for “toys and volleyball for their mental health.” 

The military reported that troops from the 54th Infantry Battalion encountered the rebels operating in the Abra-Mountain Province-Ilocos Sur triboundary on May 23 in Sitio Likew, sparking a 20-minute firefight. Another clash happened the following day in Sitio Timmapaya. The soldiers recovered two rifles, other war equipment, and documents from the clash sites. 

Namal has been the site of several clashes in the past years. Sixty residents of Sitio Nangkatinge took refuge in nearby Sitio Budo, and another 80 went to the Nangkatinge National High School in April 2013 following an NPA ambush that killed three cops. In February 2017, 98 families also evacuated following a similar incident.

Humanitarian response 

The Asipulo municipal government and the military also aided a wounded rebel entrusted by his comrades to the community for medical attention.

HUMANITARIAN DUTY. Residents of Barangay Namal in Asipulo, Ifugao, and members of the local government help bring a wounded New People’s Army rebel to the nearest hospital following clashes between the rebels and the military in the area. Photo courtesy of Asipulo MSWDO

The military identified the wounded guerrilla as a vice commander from from Sta. Lucia, Ilocos Sur, and said that he faced several criminal charges in the Ilocos and Cordillera regions. 

According to the military, soldiers rescued the rebel while conducting pursuit operations on May 26 at Sitio Belbel. 

The MSWD office said a resident from Sitio Lapting informed them of the presence of the wounded rebel in their community through the barangay captain. The village chief happened to be at the municipal hall attending a meeting when the resident relayed the information. 

“The barangay captain and a village council came to me so we contacted [Mayor Armando Domilod] for instructions,” Dulnuan recalled. 

The mayor then ordered them “to go do our best to bring him down for further medical assistance.” 

Dulnuan said the midwife assigned to the barangay assessed the condition of the wounded, which the latter’s comrades had initially tended to. The rebels also left contact details for his family and instructions for his medicine. Government troops arrived while they were evaluating the patient. 

“The army provided security to the community people who carried him during the hike up to where the MLGU ambulance is. In the ambulance, the patient was then immediately provided with dextrose as he is very much dehydrated and was then transported to the Panopdopan District Hospital (Lamut, Ifugao) for further medical attention,” she added. 

After the hospital tended to the wounds, Domilod then turned over the patient to military, which transferred him to another hospital. –

Sherwin de Vera is a Luzon-based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship.

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