THE Philippine Army disputed claims by Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding chairman Jose Maria Sison that the clashes between government forces and communist rebels in Batangas were similar to police anti-drug operations.

Brig. Gen. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos, commander of the Philippine Army’s 202nd Infantry Brigade, said Sison’s statement was “mere propaganda” by the New People’s Army (NPA) against the military.

“Joma Sison’s statement is a mere NPA propaganda against the government forces which are pure and simple lies with the sole intention of salvaging their eroding mass base support and projecting relevance in the region,” Burgos said in a statement.

He was reacting to the statement by Sison in a news report over television on Wednesday night that the encounter between troops and rebels were “Tokhang-like.”

Sison was referring to the anti-drug campaign by the Philippine National Police (PNP) known as “Oplan Tokhang”.

On Tuesday night, at least 15 NPA members, including two leaders, were killed in an encounter in Nasugbu where they were intercepted by authorities at a checkpoint. Two more rebels and five soldiers were also wounded in the clash.

Burgos said that the military provided medical aid for the wounded rebels, which Sison “cannot contradict.”

“What he (Sison) cannot contradict is that our soldiers applied first aid and evacuated the wounded terrorists to the nearest hospital for appropriate medical treatment which is more than enough proof that we are putting premium to the rights and lives of our people, including those who are blinded by the false ideology which Joma has been espousing and preaching,” Burgos said.

“This blatant attempt to weaken our resolve through misinformation and harassment only shows that we are hitting, hurting and disrupting their terroristic plans which inspires us to remain steadfast in pursuing our mandate of protecting the people of [Calabarzon] and securing this part of our land,” he added. DEMPSEY REYES