December 1, 2023

BALBALAN, Kalinga – The people of Balbalan debunked the claims of the Kabataan Partylist in its Facebook account that ethnic groups in the municipality are “experiencing serious food crop losses due to indiscriminate bombings and militarization by Philippine Army troops who held villages under siege since February” and thus the group launching a monetary donation drive to aid the affected communities.  

“The Municipality of Balbalan rebukes these misinformed claims with plain intent to mislead,” said Mayor Almar Malannag in behalf of the people of Balbalan in a statement.

“All efforts to help Balbalan are welcome, provided they are done without spreading false information.”

The mayor confirmed there were actual encounters between the military and the members of the New People’s Army rebels in Barangay Gawaan in March that resulted in the killing of two rebels and the capture of another rebel and subsequent  military operation ensued for two weeks to go after the armed group.

The Commission on Human Rights sent a team to investigate the incidents, and found no proof of indiscriminate bombings or villages under siege, Malannag said.

In the CHR fact-finding investigation report in April submitted by the team led by Atty. Joecle R. Dongla, it concluded there was no evidence of indiscriminate bombings during the military operations.

It also confirmed the claim of the military that no bomb exploded near the Gawaan Elementary School and nearby residential areas and what exploded close by was white phosphorous and not bombs. The white phosphorus is used as a military marker which signifies the limit of military operations in a particular area.

As to the claim that the villages are under siege, only reasonable restrictions were imposed in some parts where farmers were limited in their access to their farms for their own safety during the operations. This was mainly the reason why there were no civilian casualties or injuries. 

Moreover, multiple relief efforts were conducted to meet the basic needs of the constituents affected by the counter-insurgency efforts.

“The LGU of Balbalan and the provincial government of Kalinga immediately monitored the situation and ensured that their constituents were safe during the encounter. They also provided relief goods to ensure that residents of the area near the encounter were provided with their basic needs. Likewise, agencies of the government such as the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Education, and Department of Health took appropriate actions at the soonest possible time,” the report stated.

In the Kabataan Partylist Facebook post on July 5, it read “Kabataan Partylist, in coordination with Timpuyog dagiti Mannalon ti Kalinga (TMK) and Serve the People Brigade, is launching a relief drive to aid two indigenous peasant communities of Barangay Gawa-an and Poswoy, Balbalan, Kalinga who have suffered from severe food crop losses.”

Last March, the tribes of Salegseg, Gubang, and Mabaca were unable to farm due to restrictions imposed on them by Philippine Army troops. Their ancestral lands were also under attack through indiscriminate aerial bombings and artillery firing as their locality, Balbalan, has been declared as a focus state of counter-insurgency operations by the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

As a result of the delay in their agricultural work, the farmers lost all their coffee crops, at least a quarter of their wet-rice crops, and they expect to lose at least half of their dry-rice harvests.

“Let’s stand together and support these resilient farmers as they rebuild their livelihood. All proceeds obtained will be used in purchasing 241 relief packages containing rice, cooking oil, dried fish, bagoong, canned goods, salt, sugar, biscuits, and hygiene kits.”

Malannag reiterated, “Affected communities still need our support and all our efforts should be focused on extending it as and when needed and not on spreading misinformation.”

Gov. James Edduba supported the statement of the people of Balbalan.

“We are one with Balbalan in expressing our full support to the government’s anti-insurgency campaign. Through the Provincial Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, genuine civic-spirited civil society organizations and volunteer associations, we have reached out to the Elcac barangays for the purpose of assisting them plan, fund and implement their priority projects. We will continue to do so until all communities affected by insurgency are free from the clutches of communist terrorist groups.” – Peter Balocnit