Eastern Samar

AFP seeks ‘truth’ from residents as it probes Eastern Samar raid

Jazmin Bonifacio
AFP seeks ‘truth’ from residents as it probes Eastern Samar raid

HEROES. Defense Officer-in-Charge and Senior Undersecretary Jose Faustino Jr. pays his last respects to the two soldiers who were killed in Barangay Dorillo, Jipapad, Eastern Samar, during a New People's Army raid on October 7, 2022.

Jazmin Bonifacio/Rappler

Communist rebels struck when only eight of 44 families were at home in Barangay Dorillo, a village under vetting for being cleared of guerrilla presence

EASTERN SAMAR, Philippines – An Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) officer on Sunday, October 9, sought a dialogue with residents of a village in Jipapad, Eastern Samar, that the New People’s Army attacked on Friday, October 7.

“Madami na kami tinatanong sa barangay kung bakit nangyari ‘yun, ang pag-atake. Ang panawagan ko lang sa mga kababayan natin sa Jipapad na magsabi lang sila nang totoo kung ano ang nangyayari doon,” Brigadier General Zosimo Oliveros, commander of the 8th Infantry Division based in Samar Island, told Rappler before attending the wake of two soldiers killed in the raid in Barangay Dorillo.

(We have many questions for barangay folk on why this attack happened. My appeal is for the residents of Jipapad to tell the truth about what happened there.) 

Oliveros joined Defense Officer-in-Charge and Senior Undersecretary Jose Faustino Jr., AFP chief Lieutenant General Bartolome Vicente Bacarro, and Philippine Army commander Lieutenant General Romeo Brawner Jr. to condole with the families of Staff Sergeant Jhon Claire Flores and Private First Class Mark Siscar of the 52nd Infantry Battalion.

“We are here to show that the defense department fully supports the AFP and that it is solidly behind our troops,” Faustino told Rappler in a mix of Filipino and English.

The officials also spoke to provincial board members “to guarantee that we will continue with our mission, we will not stop until we achieve peace in this place.”

They promised aid for the family of the slain and the three injured, a 10-year-old girl and two other soldiers.

SOLIDARITY. AFP chief Lieutenant General Bartolome Vicente Bacarro meets the families of two soldiers slain in a raid by communist rebels in Jipapad, Eastern Samar, promising financial aid for their families. Photo by Jazmin Bonifacio/Rappler
Fiesta attack

The rebels timed their raid at 1:30 am, on a fiesta night, when only eight of 44 families in the village were around, said the father of the wounded girl.

Rappler is withholding the name of the child and her parents to protect their privacy.

“Natutulog kami nung mangyari ang putukan. Ginising ko ang tatlo kong mga anak at do’n natamaan ang anak namin,” the father said. (We were sleeping when the shooting started. I woke up my three children and that’s when my daughter got hit.)

He and his wife rushed to neighboring Barangay Curry to seek help in bringing their child to the Eastern Samar Provincial Hospital in Borongan City.

“Gusto ko mabigyan [ng] hustisya ang anak ko. Sana hindi na maulit ang gano’n na pag-atake nila sa barangay namin kasi nadadamay na kami,” said her mother. (I want justice for my child. I hope attacks like this don’t happen again in our village because we get dragged into the conflict.)

The farmer couple said their livelihood is now at risk as they cannot leave their daughter, who refuses to return home. They also plan to take their other two children out of the village.

RAID SITE. Only eight of 44 families of Barangay Dorillo, Jipapad, Eastern Samar, were around when rebels swooped in on October 7, 2022. Photo from 52nd Infantry Battalion
Hearts and minds

Oliveros, addressing local folk, said: “We cannot solve this [insurgency] if you are hiding some things. Our soldiers are here to help you.”

The new 8th Infantry Division head took over the division on September 23, two days before Major General Edgardo de Leon retired on September 25.

PROBE. Major General Zosimo Oliveros, commander of the 8th Infantry Division, says they will investigate how the rebels got past government defenses in Barangay Dorillo, Jipapad, Eastern Samar, on October 7, 2022.

De Leon left the service after dealing the Communist Party of the Philippines a series of major blows. An eight-month long offensive in Samar Island led to the arrests and deaths of ranking leaders of the Eastern Visayas Regional Party Committee and many rebels surrendered from their beleaguered units. 

The offensive was capped by the explosion of a boat off the coast of Tarangnan, Samar province, on August 22, killing eight “communist VIPs”.

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De Leon told Rappler that while the communists absorbed major losses, they remain capable of staging large attacks on the island. 

Oliveros’ remarks hint at the complexities of pacification.

The Barangay Council of Dorillo had declared the communists as persona non grata in their village in March 2020.

The new 8th Infantry Division chief said Dorillo was “cleared last year for further validation, kung hindi pa binalikan (if it hasn’t been infiltrated again).”

“We will make sure that it is really cleared before recommending it” to the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), said Oliveros. The controversial task force vets if barangays are eligible for millions of pesos in “development funds.”

Faustino said he would let the AFP decide about sending reinforcements to Samar.

“We have a major campaign to finish. If they need it, they just need to recommend and plan for it,” Faustino said. “Right now, our aim is to bring back normality and ensure the place is safe.”

“Our forces have their own deployments all over the country. If there is anything we need to change, we need to study it carefully, and any movement of forces, I leave to the AFP.” – Rappler.com

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