The Communist Party of the Philippines on 23 March reiterated that the New People’s Army strictly adheres to International Humanitarian Law in its conduct of civil war in the Philippines, as shown in the 19 March NPA armed offensive against the Duterte regime’s security forces in a village in Labo, Camarines Norte province, about 300km. southeast of the capital Manila.

Marco Valbuena, CPP Chief Information Officer, said, “The NPA raid… was a legitimate military action consistent with international rules on the conduct of war. The target, a counterinsurgency outpost of highly-trained police special action forces, was a legitimate military target.” He said the police officers “were fully armed and defended themselves.”

Five Philippine National Police officers died and two were wounded in the encounter. The NPA seized 17 high-powered firearms and various ammunitions from the police detachment. Three others who survived chose to surrender, when they realized that the combat troops of the Armed Forces of the Philippines encamped in the same village did not send reinforcements.

Raymundo Buenfuerza, spokesperson of the NPA Bicol Regional Operational Command said the Red fighters extended humane treatment and first aid to the police who were wounded and surrendered. He said, “This is proof of their conscious adherence to the iron discipline of the Red Army in advancing the people’s just war for the oppressed and exploited masses.”

Valbuena added, “We urge the foot soldiers of the AFP and PNP who find themselves in battle with the NPA, especially a superior NPA force, to choose to surrender and submit their firearms in order to avoid the loss of lives...The NPA assures enemy troops who surrender that no harm will befall them and that their rights under the Geneva Conventions governing the conduct of war will be respected.”

Reacting to the setback, the Duterte regime's security officials ordered their troops to step up suppressive operations in the country. PNP officer-in-charge Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar ordered all police units based in areas “heavily infiltrated” by the CPP-NPA to intensify their military operations.

These operations are expected to result in more violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in rural communities, especially in the treatment of unarmed civilians.