Bohol’s insurgency problem persists

Central Visayas Police chief BGen. Albert Ignatius Ferro, on a recent command visit to the Bohol Provincial Police Office, told his men that he sees a resurgence of activities of the communist movement in Bohol in recent years (The Bohol Chronicle, Sept. 16, 2020). A few days later, Junifie Dagale, with a P5-million bounty on her head, was arrested in the island municipality of Carlos P. Garcia. She was wanted for a string of high-profile crimes in Mindanao, including abduction, armed attacks and a robbery that netted 46 pieces of AK-47s and two dozens of other firearms. Congratulations to the Police and military for arresting this Most Wanted personality.

Whether Dagale was in Bohol simply to hide — she was reportedly staying at the house of a relative of her husband — or to aide the local communist movement has not been disclosed. Bohol officially remains insurgency-free now on the 11th year. However, there have been at least four encounters this year: on February 29, April 26, May 9 and June 26. A soldier and one New People’s Army (NPA) fighter were killed in the February 29 encounter.

Both the February 29 and April 26 encounters happened at Barangay Cambigsi, Bilar, while the May 9 and June 26 encounters took place in Upper Cabacnitan, Batuan and Bayawahan, Sevilla, respectively. Batuan, Bilar and Sevilla are adjacent towns. Cambigsi and Upper Cabacnitan are neighboring barangay (villages).

On June 15, 24-year-old Jason Deliman, a resident of Upper Cabacnitan, was liquidated by suspected NPA when he visited his mother in Cambigsi. Jason was believed to have given information to the government. What happened to him and others before him is the reason why people in the villages most affected by insurgency usually won’t report suspicious activities or persons to authorities.

On July 21, a military vehicle carrying soldiers from 47th Infantry Battalion passed through the same Barangay Cambigsi when it was fired upon by an undetermined number of suspects, likely members of the NPA.

I do not know if this was reported, but some farmers claim to have seen about 80 suspected NPA members — men and women, some armed with AK-47 — in the most remote corner of Batuan, a place called Behind the Clouds. This was sometime last month.

The villages where the NPA seems to be able to operate unhindered and again and again engage the military are located in an area where forest provides cover, a local river ensures supply of water, relatives take care of essential supplies, and lack of roads and bridges make it difficult for the military to penetrate. As for the police they have reportedly long ago stopped patrolling or responding to reports of enemy presence or activity. Maybe that could explain the resurgence of leftist activities mentioned by General Ferro, at least partly.

On his command visit to Bohol, the police general presented to media Joseph Gulle Galagar, an alleged NPA leader who surrendered to the police last September 2. Galagar is said to be a “close-in comrade” of elusive NPA Commander Domingo Compoc. He “served as Coastal Transport Support Unit leader” and as such operated a motorized banca, transporting rebels, weapons and other supplies between Bohol, Cebu and Negros islands. Galagar and his wife were, in May 2018, accused of hiding wounded rebels in their house in Barangay Cogtong, Candijay, after an encounter in Campagao, Bilar. Though the two places are very far apart, there must have been a reason why the police and barangay tanod (village police) suspected Galagar.

Galagar and his wife were at the time both members of local chapters of organizations under the umbrella of the national democratic movement, the wife of Gabriela, the husband of Cogtong Fishermen’s Association — Bol-anong Kahugpongan sa mga Kabus nga Nananagat (Bohol Organization of Poor Fisherfolks) or Cogfa-Bokkana-Pamalakaya. Pamalakaya is the national democratic movement’s sectoral organization for fisher folks.

The military, together with various entities of the national government has been busy giving livelihood assistance to former rebels. This is fine. However, the persistence of the insurgency in insurgency-free Bohol doesn’t seem to be due to economic deprivation or social injustice. The insurgency problem is mostly confined to a few small towns. This area isn’t underdeveloped, but more roads and bridges connecting remote villages to the rest of the world could go a long way in making it less easy for the rebels to hide. The national government is literally swimming in money for infrastructure projects in insurgency-affected communities. This is the time to put some of this money to good use and help Bohol stop the NPA menace before it spreads further.

The police have been busy lately on the coronavirus front. But this should not stop them from doing their regular job of securing peace and order in remote communities that need protection from criminal elements.




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