TAGUM CITY—Barely two days after the Communist Party of the Philippines’ extended ceasefire had expired, New People’s Army (NPA) rebels seized a soldier and a policeman at a roadblock in Laak, Compostela Valley, on Thursday.
Police and military officials in Southern Mindanao said the fate of the captives, Pfc. Jezreel Culango and PO1 Ruel Pasion, remained uncertain as of Friday, although the rebels said the captives were alive.
In past cases of abduction of soldiers and policemen, the victims always ended up being released after admitting their “crimes against the masses” and asking apology for their “offenses” during hearings conducted by the rebels’ kangaroo courts.
However, some captives had also been executed because of what the rebels described as grave offenses.
Maj. Jacob Obligado, commander of the Army’s 10th Civil-Military Battalion, said pursuit operations were now being conducted against the rebels and to possibly rescue the victims.
Culango, a member of the 60th Infantry Battalion (IB) based in Barangay Sawata in San Isidro, Davao del Norte, was to visit his girlfriend in Laak town when forced to stop at a roadblock put up by the rebels around 9 a.m. on Thursday, he said.
Pasion, on the other hand, was aboard another vehicle and was on his way to work at the San Isidro police station when also stopped at the same roadblock, Chief Supt. Jaime Morente, Southern Mindanao police chief, said.
Morente said the rebels manning the roadblock wore camouflage uniforms similar to the ones that soldiers wear.
Laak is a known stronghold of the NPA, he said, but motorists believed the roadblock was a checkpoint put up by authorities due to the election gun ban.
Senior Supt. Camilo Cascolan, Compostela Valley police director, said a number of motorists were stranded at the roadblock as the rebels checked on vehicles and searched for soldiers and policemen.
Obligado said the rebels under the NPA’s Front Committee 34, numbering about 30, had fled toward the hinterland portion of Barangay Imelda, also in Laak, with the captives.
Cascolan said they were in close coordination with the 60th IB and the village chief of Imelda to rescue Culango and Pasion.
In a statement e-mailed to reporters on Friday, the NPA confirmed that Culango and Pasion were under its custody.
Rigoberto Sanchez, Merardo Arce Command spokesperson, said it has not only taken prisoners of war but the rebels also “defeated” soldiers in Davao Oriental.
Sanchez said the NPA is now in an “active military offensive stance after it lifted its temporary ceasefire on Jan. 15.”
“The two prisoners of war are being treated well. Their safety [is] of primordial consideration, as the NPA abides [by] the tenets of international humanitarian law,” he said.
Sanchez said the day before Culango and Pasion were taken at a roadblock in Laak, NPA rebels had also defeated a military team, which attacked a group of rebels in Barangay Binondo in Baganga, Davao Oriental.
“The Red fighters have detached from the main front guerrilla unit at the time of the ceasefire to solicit goods for the relief and rehabilitation program of the People’s Democratic Government for the Typhoon ‘Pablo’ victims,” Sanchez said.
He said the attack on the NPA team, which was trying to help victims of typhoon victims in Davao Oriental, was proof that “the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) troops have gone berserk in violating the human rights of the poor, suffering Typhoon Pablo victims.” Frinston Lim and Ayan Mellejor, with a report from Allan Nawal, Inquirer Mindanao