December 8, 2023

This is in response to several inquiries made to the Office of the Municipal Mayor of in Balbalan, Kalinga regarding a post circulating online that was created to support a relief drive initiated by the Kabataan Party-list in coordination with Timpuyog dagiti Mannalon ti Kalinga and Serve the People Brigade.
While genuine efforts to assist the communities affected by counter-insurgency efforts are welcome, it is essential to avoid spreading inaccurate and potentially false information.
The post requested monetary donations, claiming the proceeds would be given to farmers who suffered significant losses in food crops. It attributed these losses to “indiscriminate aerial bombings and artillery firing” and alleged militarization of the community by Philippine Army troops, resulting in villages being under siege since February.
The local government of Balbalan strongly refutes these claims, which may have resulted from negligence or a deliberate intent to mislead the public.
There indeed was an encounter between the military and members of the New People’s Army but based on the investigation conducted on April 3 by the Commission on Human Rights led by Atty. Joecle R. Dongla, it was concluded there was no evidence of indiscriminate bombings during the military operations.
The CHR also confirmed the military’s account that no bombs exploded near Gawaan Elementary School or nearby residential areas, clarifying that what exploded nearby was white phosphorous, a military marker used to indicate the limit of military operations in a specific area.
There were no bombs in the area that could have resulted in bombings near schools or residences.
The fact-finding report was the result of an investigation conducted in the actual area, including interviews with the undersigned, Lt. Ferdinand Pulalon of the Civil Military Operations and Lt/Col. Floyd Gano of the PA, Cpt. Reyguardo MaSrtinez, chief of police, Teacher-in-charge of Gawaan ES Nicolas T. Sagalon, Punong Barangay Lucina Manao, and residents of the affected barangays.
Regarding the claim that the villages are under siege, it should be clarified that reasonable restrictions were imposed at certain areas to prevent civilian casualties or injuries and to ensure the safety of farmers by limiting their access to their farms.
It is highly irresponsible to assert that “ancestral lands are under attack through indiscriminate aerial bombings and artillery firing” when evidence proves otherwise.
In addition, multiple relief efforts were conducted to address the basic needs of constituents affected by the counter-insurgency efforts.
The report acknowledges these efforts, stating that “the LGU of Balbalan and the provincial government of Kalinga immediately monitored the situation and ensured that 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, the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Education, and Department of Health took appropriate actions at the soonest possible time.”
The affected communities still require support, and it is crucial that our efforts remain focused on providing assistance when needed rather than spreading misinformation.
(The author is the mayor of Balbalan, Kalinga.)