Troops were delivering assistance to typhoon victims in Northern Samar when they were ambushed by 50 communist rebels
The social action arm of the Philippine bishops’ conference deplored a rebel ambush of soldiers who were delivering relief goods for typhoon victims.
“The ambush of soldiers while delivering relief goods is deplorable,” said Father Edwin Gariguez, executive secretary of Caritas-Philippines, in an interview. The priest said that in “emergency humanitarian operations,” soldiers should not be targets of attacks, “particularly if they are bringing relief goods to flood victims.”
Communist New People’s Army rebels shot at soldiers who were assisting families affected by tropical storm Kai-tak that battered the central Philippines a week before Christmas.
Soldiers from the Philippine Army’s 20th Infantry Battalion were conducting “humanitarian assistance and disaster response operations” in the town of Catubig, Northern Samar province, when about 50 rebel gunmen launched the attack.
The ensuing gunfight that wounded two soldiers caused panic among residents.
Father Gariguez, however, said the attack should not be used as reason for the government and the rebels not to declare a Christmas truce.
“We are advocating for a peaceful and just resolution of armed conflict,” said the priest, adding that “peace talks should proceed and ceasefire should be observed by both parties during Christmas and even beyond.”
The government’s National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council has recorded the death of 41 people due to the tropical storm.
Council spokeswoman Romina Marasigan, however, said her office still has to verify the information. “These incidents were reported by the police,” she said.
The regional police office in the Eastern Visayas reported 46 deaths due to the storm, while 26 others were still missing, many of whom were from the province of Biliran.
Disaster officials estimated that about a million people were affected in the central Philippines. About 100,000 individuals remained in 381 evacuation centers.
On Dec. 20, the Archdiocese of Manila appealed for donations for the relief and rehabilitation needs of affected peopled in the central Philippines.