COVID-19 hits communist rebels in Bukidnon
By Martin Sadongdong / Manila Bulletin
Major Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr., commander of 4th Infantry Division and a Marawi siege veteran (Screenshot via Conflict Resolution Clinic webinar / Manila Bulletin)
The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) may have already been plaguing the ranks of the New People’s Army (NPA) as eight of the communist rebels who were either killed or captured after clashes with the military in Bukidnon tested positive for the deadly virus.
That is why Maj. Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr., commander of 4th Infantry Division (4ID), advised them to lay down their firearms first and avail of the vaccination program of the national government.
Brawner even offered to secure doses of COVID-19 vaccines for the communist rebels in his area of responsibility.
“I want to inform them that COVID-19 spares no one — soldiers, police, officials, ordinary citizens, and even members of the CPP-NPA-NDF (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front of the Philippines,” said Brawner.
“We are willing to provide COVID-19 vaccines to the CTG [communist-terrorist groups] if they will decide to abandon the armed struggle and cooperate with us,” he added.
Brawner made the statement after the rebel who died in the clash, another who was injured and six who were captured in separate armed encounters in San Fernando and Valencia towns turned out to be COVID-positive.
Based on the report, elements of the 88th Infantry Battalion (88IB) clashed with members of the Guerilla Front Malayag, Sub-Regional Committee 2 (SRC), North Central Mindanao Regional Committee (NCMRC) in Brgy. Mabuhay, San Fernando, Valencia last Sept. 8 where four NPAs were killed and 10 others were captured.
Of those killed, alias Jillian tested positive for COVID-19 in an antigen test
“[Jillian] tested positive in an antigen test so we conducted an RT-PCR test for confirmation. We’re still waiting for the results,” Maj. Francisco Garello, 4ID spokesperson, told the Manila Bulletin in Filipino.
Three of the captured NPAs also tested positive and were identified as alias Taburok, female, 17; alias Manman; and alias Daniel.
Meanwhile, the 88IB also figured in an armed encounter with the same NPA unit in Sitio Narulang, Brgy. Laligan, Valencia on Sept. 10.
During the encounter, four NPA rebels were captured — all of them positive for COVID-19. They were identified only through their aliases: Anjie, 17-year-old Jayson, 15-year-old RK, and Kib who is positive for the Delta variant.
“Many in the NPA ranks possibly have COVID-19 as evidenced by the positive test results of the captured and dead CNTs,” Brawner said.
Those killed in the two clashes were immediately buried by the military.
Brawner appealed to the NPA leadership to “abandon the armed struggle” as the country is “currently facing an unseen enemy that is even more serious and deadly where it exempts no one, the COVID-19.”
“I am personally appealing to Jorge Madlos alias Ka Oris and his group to return to the peaceful path now and go down from the mountains so that they can be given vaccines and proper medical attention,” he said, referring to the leader of the NPA unit in Bukidnon.