NEWS FEATURE: FLOOD FLUSHES OUT COMMUNIST REBELS
MANILA, OCTOBER 13, 2009 (STAR) By James Mananghaya - Communist rebels were not spared from the wrath of typhoon “Pepeng” (international codename: Parma) as they are now reportedly coming down from their jungle hideouts to avail themselves of relief goods being distributed by the government and other non-government organizations, particularly in northern Luzon, a military spokesman said.
Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner, Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesman, said in an interview that they have received reports that New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in Cagayan and Isabela provinces have been seen lining up for relief packs being given to evacuees.
Defense Secretary and National Disaster Coordinating Council chair Gilbert Teodoro has ordered a temporary suspension of offensive operations against the NPA in typhoon-ravaged areas of the region.
“We have received reports that even members of the New People’s Army have come down. Some are in evacuation centers, others are availing (of) relief goods because of the lack of food in their area,” Brawner said.
But he said that the rebels, even if positively identified, could not be arrested, especially if they are not carrying firearms and there is no warrant of arrest.
“They are said to be identified by the public, but then we also want to help them and give them relief packages because they are also Filipinos,” he said.
He said that even so-called enemies should be given help if their lives are at stake.
Teodoro admitted that recent calamities, particularly tropical storm “Ondoy” and typhoon Pepeng, have already affected a large portion of internal security operations of the military.
“It’s a total shift from ISO to calamity response. For now we are focused on this and we don’t care what the enemy will do as of the moment. It comes with a cost on our operations, but it’s the most pressing need that we have to attend to,” he said.
However, Teodoro clarified that the shift only involved operating units, leaving them with special operations forces to respond to any threat from various armed groups, mainly the NPA.
He said intelligence operations continue so as not to give threat groups a chance to take advantage of the situation.
Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi
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