Wednesday, November 25, 2009

No Let Up

The killing of eight Army troopers and five others including one policeman last November 11 in the vicinity of Lanuza and San Miguel towns in Surigao del Sur has finally given the military and government the excuse to jack up the intensity of its counterinsurgency operations all over the province.

The thirteen causalities were lost in the aftermath of a carefully laid ambush executed by New People's Army guerrillas that saw a landmine explosion hitting a two vehicle convoy sent to reinforce a detachment of armed militiamen assigned to the Surigao Development Corporation (SUDECOR) near Barangay Pakwan also in Lanuza town which had earlier also been attacked by NPA insurgents.

The high cost exacted on the local military forces by the success of the "lure and ambush" tactics employed by the NPA, as evidenced by the recent ambuscade, has shaken the military leadership. As a consequence, reliable sources have revealed that the commanding officers of the 401st Brigade and the 58th Infantry Batallion of the Philippine Army which have operational jurisdiction over the province have been quietly relieved and replaced although nothing formal can be heard yet from the media or from the military high command.

Time and time again in the past, especially in the 1970's and 80's, the armed forces has lost many of their men to the classic NPA guerrilla stratagem whereby rebel forces harass an isolated military outpost and then launch the main attack on hapless troops trying to reinforce their beleaguered companions.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Rained In

In Lianga, local folks are trying to find ways to deal with one of the wettest weeks they had this year. Since last Monday, the weather suddenly turned cold and rainy which seemed for a day or two a welcome change after a short stretch of several hot, sweltering and sunny days. But when one wakes up to overcast skies and wet downpours that never seem to end and this happens day after day for a week or so, even the vaunted charms of long, dreamy, rainy days can wear off very quickly.

As in most small, towns in this part of the world, rainy weather has a damper effect on the tempo of community life. Work schedules are suddenly relaxed and an infectious lethargy descends upon all forms and aspects of human activity. Most people tend to stay at home and travel plans are shelved.

Those with houses along rivers, creeks and flood prone areas start to worry about rising water levels while others vainly try to plug holes in leaking roofs and walls while at the same time blaming themselves for procrastinating on not making essential house repairs and maintenance work during more sunnier and drier times. All worry about long brownouts which tend to be frequent during rainy and windy weather when power lines are most vulnerable to falling trees, flying debris and landslides.

Colds, coughing, asthma and other respiratory illnesses wreck their usual havoc on susceptible local residents who have to endure days of being cooped up together indoors behind closed doors and sealed windows. I, for one, should know. I have been battling a runny nose, clogged sinuses and the occasional fever the past few days.

Monday, November 16, 2009


It started out as a dull rumble in the distance much like the sound of large trucks zipping by on the nearby highway. Then it resolved itself into the whop-whop-whopping, rhythmic thumping made iconic in countless war movies on television and the movie screen.

The Vietnam War vintage Bell UH-1 Huey helicopter's distinctive rotor sounds may, in another setting, merely be a reason for idle bystanders to rush out of their homes in order to check what the heck in going on. In Lianga, however, the echoing thunder of this vintage aircraft is as familiar as it is foreboding. It is often a warning that war is afoot.

So five days ago, when I caught the sounds and made the sighting of at least two Hueys flying north at a low altitude over the north of the town, I immediately feared for the worst. The news, when it arrived, came in trickles.

A group of New People's Army guerrillas had raided a detachment of armed militiamen and security personnel in Barangay Pakwan near Lanuza town more than a hundred kilometers north of Lianga. The detachment is affiliated with the Surigao Development Corporation (SUDECOR) which is engaged in large-scale logging operations in the northern part of the province of Suurigao del Sur. In the aftermath of the attack, the rebels burned heavy machinery belonging to the firm and even took as temporary hostages some company employees and security personnel.