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HomeDNX DefenseSwords to scissors: From war fighting to cutting hair and extracting teeth

Swords to scissors: From war fighting to cutting hair and extracting teeth

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NPA ‘health services’ non-existent in area then covered by guerrilla zone

BRGY. PINAPUGASAN, Escalante City, Negros Occidental, Philippines – The Communist Party of the Philippines had always boasted that the money it gets through extortion activities, which it calls “revolutionary taxation,” is being spent for, among others, “health services for the masses.”

That has been the standard line from top Communist honchos Frank Fernandez, now in prison, to the dead Juanito Magbanua.

The situation on the ground, however, even within a former guerrilla zone, showed that while the Communist terrorists are earning millions, their supposed services to the masses are more fiction than fact, as elusive as their supposed victory in a revolution that has lasted more than half a century.

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And this became evident yesterday as the men formerly considered “kaaway (enemy)” here, or at least the Communist propaganda network made it appear, laid down their swords for a while and exchanged with swords and clippers, and extractors and syringes to directly serve residents of this once hard to reach village more than 100 kilometers north of Bacolod, the capital city.

“Many here told me it’s their first time to see a dentist,” a young female dentist with the rank of a lieutenant told this reporter during a brief break.

Most of those who came to the health services mission at the covered court here had teeth extractions and had physical checkups done by doctors who also gave medicines.

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The activity center was about a kilometer away from the February 2024 clashes between 79th IB soldiers and rebel remnants, the most intense of which eas in the upkand community of Mandulao where Air Force attack helicopters were called in to back ground troops.

Three rebels were killed, later identified as Jose “Ka Joe” Caramihan, and two former child warriors, alias Ka Jandie and Michael.

Residents here told this reporter they have not availed of any medical service from the NPA that involved real doctors and dentists.

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All those interviewed were hesitant to talk at first and asked that their real names and other personal details not be used.

Most were women, many elderly.

“Opo, some of those here told us this is the first time for them to see a doctor, too,” the unit commander, Arnel Calaoagan, an Army lieutenant colonel, told DNX.

Calaoagan is the island’s newest battallion commander who took over a cleared area from Lieutenant Colonel J-Jay Javines who is now spokesman of the Third Infantry Division.

But while Calaoagan is the newest battalion chief, he also handles the unit with the most barangays, 330 in all, under his watch covering three political districts and the Lone District of Bacolod.

The Pinapugasan health mission is telling in a way for former cadres of the CPP, one of them Ka Glenn who is now an enlisted Army personnel who joined the mission.

“People here told me they don’t want the NPA to come back, some were thankful the airstrikes happened because it drove them away,” she told DNX.

Glenn knows the area well. She was deployed here by the CPP as part of a semi legal team after she became a member of Communist front organizations GABRIELA and Anakbayan.

She was part of a Party collective that included what were then officials of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan.

She said she does not recall any organized effort by the then Northern Negros Front officials to help people with their medical needs.

She only recalled collecting money from people, most farmers barely earning enough to buy food for rallies in Bacolod City.

Nearby, as doctors and nurses with the help of Felix Yusay Foundation were busy looking after residents, soldiers were acting as barbers, cutting the locks of boys, mostly teenahed ones.

This is my ninth today, a soldier said.

He said he learned how to cut hair because he does it at home, too, on his sons.

“The children here can choose what cut they want,” he said. His client, a little boy, nodded in approval.

A fellow soldier with another client, a teener, said he, too, wanted a military cut.

“I want to be a soldier,” he said.

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Julius D. Mariveles
Julius D. Mariveles
An amateur cook who has a mean version of humba, the author has recently tried to make mole negra, the Mexican sauce he learned by watching shows of master chef Rick Bayless. A journalist since 19, he has worked in the newsrooms of radio, local papers, and Manila-based news organizations. A stroke survivor, he now serves as executive editor of DNX.
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