Dozens of captured members of the New People's Army (NPA) received vaccines against COVID-19, the 4th Infantry Division (ID) of the Philippine Army said Monday.
The 4th ID implemented the inoculation after some communist rebels captured in San Fernando, Bukdinon tested positive for COVID-19.
The division believes COVID-19 is widespread among the NPA.
The 88th Infantry Battalion administered Sinovac and AstraZeneca vaccines to 11 former rebels and six of their dependents.
Through the 58th Infantry Battalion, 15 former rebels from NPA North Central Mindanao Regional Committee received their first doses of Moderna and Sinovac vaccines.
Seven former rebels from Surigao del Sur, and six former rebels and four dependents from Agusan del Norte also received the jab.
A high-ranking NPA member also received his first dose of the Sinovac vaccine.
"We reiterate our willingness to share to the [Communist Terrorist Group] members the vaccines intended for our soldiers," said Maj. Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr., commander of the 4th ID.
"We assure them that we will give them proper medical attention and get them vaccinated once they return to the folds of the law," he said.
In July last year, President Rodrigo Duterte, the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, offered COVID-19 vaccines to communist rebels if they stop fighting military troops until December that year.
Brawner said over 20,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines were given to the 4th ID, which can be shared with rebels.
But the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) warned NPA fighters against the Army's "vaccine for surrender" offer, saying the scheme shows how the government is using the COVID-19 pandemic "in its continuing suppression campaign and counterinsurgency."
The organization said it believes the AFP will use the offer to "force thousands of people to line up and be paraded as NPA surrenderees."
"We have reason to believe that the seven people arrested by the military in San Fernando, Bukidnon... are actually civilians living in the area," it said.
The CPP said it was also looking into the military's reports of NPA fighters who have been infected with COVID-19, adding that it had already anticipated COVID-19 to reach NPA units.
It also criticized the AFP's counterinsurgency campaign, where residents of rural villages are "compelled" to join assemblies, which lead to COVID-19 infections.
"This is why since the start of the pandemic, NPA units have been advising and helping village people’s organizations and health workers on measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in their villages," it said.
"Until vaccines are more widely available, units of the NPA have been advised of the use of herbal medication... and regular physical exercise to promote good health and fight COVD-19 infections."
— With a report from Rod Bolivar, and Jaehwa Bernardo, ABS-CBN News
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