Sunday, August 20, 2006

Red Storm Rising

In the aftermath of the attack by New People's Army guerrillas on the police station in San Agustin town last August 15, reports and rumors of similar imminent attacks on the towns of Lianga and Barobo have continued to spread. Alleged sightings of groups of heavily-armed individuals visiting several outlying villages and warning people there of coming rebel attacks on the towns (or a reprisal attack again on San Agustin) have done little to alleviate the high level of anxiety the local people are feeling over what is appearing to be a resurgence of communist rebel activity in the area.

The reasons for the resurgence may provide fertile grounds for discussion but inevitably the question of what the government is doing to address the immediate matter of improving the local security situation remains uppermost in the minds of the local population. The failure of the NPA action in San Agustin may have been a tactical victory but the fact that the rebels were able to launch the attack with impunity and continue to conduct extensive recruitment and support base building activities relatively unhampered in the countryside shows that the government may be, or has been since, unable to take the initiative in the counter-insurgency war.

In Lianga, the people are trying to live their lives under this shadow of uncertainty and fear. It is a most distressing of state of affairs. A friend of mine jokingly told me recently that he was thinking of building a foxhole in the back of his house just in case the town gets attacked and bullets start flying.

We both laughed about it, of course. But come to think of it - he may be right.

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