One afternoon in two forests, two young girls die clutching their rifles

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    THE picture has become commonplace in the eyes of newsmen laying out a paper: a young girl with eyes closed, probably aged 20 to 25, clad in faded denims, shirt or jacket, her face made ugly by ash-and-crimson shade, leaves and mountain grass as background, traces of dried blood in her arms… arms that held on to an M-16 Armalite rifle up to the very end.

    It was the image of Makibaka founder Ma. Lorena Barros in 1976, when the communist rebel organization New People’s Army (NPA) was just in its infancy, taking the life of a University of the Philippines coed from comfortable Diliman to some quaint barrio in Quezon.

    It was the photo, too, of Josephine Anne Lapira, 22, a student of UP Manila who was killed in November, 2017 in an encounter between soldiers and NPA rebels in Batangas. The same image of Rochelle Mae Bacalso, alias Ruth, 21, who was killed in the highlands of Kananga, Leyte when their NPA band attempted to ambush a team of patrolling Philippine Army soldiers. The encounter occurred not very long ago: Nov. 28, 2020, Saturday, at 3:35 p.m.

    ‘With these new developments unraveling before our eyes, new deaths in the battlefield and the waste of young Filipino lives, this retrogressive group that loves to call itself “progressive” and holds a patent on duplicity will have a hard time convincing the people about the truth of what they say.’

    On the same afternoon in another part of the country, at 4 p.m., another young girl serving as Red fighter-medic of her NPA team, actually just a Sandatahang Yunit Pampropaganda (SYP) platoon, was dying of bullet wounds following a firefight with the military. She was Jevilyn Cullamat, a daughter of  Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Eufemia Cullamat who, on Sunday, admitted that her daughter had indeed joined the armed struggle. The tragic encounter between the military and the NPA rebels happened in Marihatag, Surigao del Sur.

    Lt. Col. Joey Baybayan, commanding officer of the 3rd Special Forces Battalion, said his troops were conducting patrol operations in Barangay San Isidro when they were fired upon by an undetermined number of armed attackers at around 4 p.m. The firefight lasted for 45 minutes and when it was over, the soldiers found the body of the young girl.

    Her mother, the congresswoman, later admitted that Jevilyn had joined the NPA, and was fighting a just war for the sake of their tribe and other indigenous people who she claimed have been victims of military oppression and abuse.

    The deaths of Bacalso and Cullamat — young women who graduated from benign activism to taking up arms — and the deaths of Lapira and scores of other young men and women before them, all point to the truth in the words and admonitions made by Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. to today’s youths in the universities and communities. The admonition was directed at actress Liza Soberano, but it might as well be addressed to all young Filipinos.

    Parlade has been vindicated.

    In effect, Parlade advised the youths to keep away from Gabriela, Bayan Muna, League of Filipino Students, NUJP, CEGP, Gabriela Youth, ACT, KMU, Karapatan, Anak Bayan, NUSP, Kabataang Makabayan, Makibaka, etc. because these are front organizations of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army, and association with them might lead to death in firefights with the military. For telling the truth, Parlade was vilified by some senators, netizens, congressmen, and even by a losing presidential candidate. The general knows the risks, but he truly loves this nation and the Filipino people that this spokesman of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) was willing to engage the double-talking solons in debate.

    The so-called Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives, to which Rep. Eufemia Cullamat belongs, has vowed to high heavens that their allied organizations do not have connections with the CPP-NPA, even as Teddy Casiño and Carlos Zarate affirmed to the Senate that the NPA is not the enemy of the government and the people.

    With these new developments unraveling before our eyes, new deaths in the battlefield and the waste of young Filipino lives, this retrogressive group that loves to call itself “progressive” and holds a patent on duplicity will have a hard time convincing the people about the truth of what they say.

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