DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Communist rebels admitted they have in their custody a policeman and a soldier, who went missing in North Cotabato and Compostela Valley last week.
Daniel Ibarra, New People’s Army spokesperson for Compostela Valley, said Private First Class Jesus Tomas Jr., was “arrested” by guerrillas in Barangay (village) Elizalde in Maco town on April 24 as part of the enforcement of “revolutionary justice for the brutal killing of eight-year old Roque Antivo.”
Antivo was the child who was killed when soldiers allegedly opened fire on a group of civilians in Mabini, Compostela Valley, on April 3. Two other children were reportedly injured in the gun attack that took place a few hours after rebels killed two soldiers in a gunbattle in the same town.
Ibarra said the NPA was particularly angry at the military’s denial of culpability by soldiers over the attack and the police’s efforts to help them cover up for Antivo’s death, which was why it abducted Tomas and “launched a series of punitive actions against the 71st Infantry Battalion-10th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army and the Mabini Police Station.”
“The police planted false evidence at the crime scene to cover up the military’s atrocious act,” he said.
Ibarra said the military’s claim that a clash took place in the area where Antivo died was bolstered by a manufactured police investigation report that said empty shells from other types of firearms – aside from those used by the soldiers – had been recovered.
“The 10th ID-Eastern Mindanao Command and the Philippine National Police are bent on obliterating proof of the 71st IB’s atrocities. The police declared that other shells were found at the scene where the boys were hit in Sitio (sub village) Kidaraan, Mabini, to push the lie that the Army was in an encounter with the NPA,” he said.
In a separate statement, Isabel Santiago of the NPA’s Southern Mindanao Command, said rebels also took into custody Police Officer 2 Maula Ali, a member of the Arakan police force.
Santiago said Ali had traversed into a rebel area on April 19 and was “arrested” for investigation on why he did that.
Felix Patrimonio, administrator of Arakan town, earlier said Ali was walking to his farm in Barangay Tahontong, along with his wife and son, when seized by NPA rebels around 10 a.m.
“Currently, the said policeman is under investigation and may be subjected to trial for crimes against the revolution and the people,” Santiago said.
The two NPA spokespersons said the captives, who were abducted after two policemen from Agusan del Sur made a daring dash to freedom and seven militiamen in the same province were released after days in captivity, were being treated humanely.
But the military said the NPA’s pronouncement about adherence to humanitarian laws was proven false once more when rebels “murdered” an off-duty militiaman in Calinan district here on Friday.
1Lt. Vilma Mojado, spokesperson for the military’s 10th Infantry Division, said Delio Jamana, a member of the Civilian Armed Auxiliary was brutally killed.
“He sustained 11 gunshot wounds in his head per initial investigation done by PNP Calinan and the Davao City (Scene of Crime Operation) Team,” she said in a statement.
Mojado said killing Jamana was the NPA’s way of reciprocating for the military’s humane treatment of Renier Perez, a rebel who was wounded in the April 25 clash in Compostela Valley.
“The troops even used a makeshift stretcher and alternately carried Perez from the mountainous encounter site towards the accessible road for vehicle transportation to the hospital,” she said, adding that soldiers also had to keep him alive by using a “manual ventilator” so he could breathe normally while being transported.
“The rescue is a classic example of how your soldiers care for the wounded,” Maj. Gen. Ariel Bernardo, 10th ID commander, said.
Amid the renewed NPA activities across the country, government chief negotiator Alex Padilla said Malacañang was “considering a new approach to peacefully resolve the armed conflict with the Communist Party of the Philippines amid the 22-month impasse in the negotiations.”
“We cannot wait forever for the other side if they continually refuse to go back to the negotiating table without preconditions. The government will be taking a new approach to pursue peace,” Padilla said in a statement issued on Friday.
He did not elaborate on what the “new approach” would be.
Talks between the government and the Maoist rebels were halted in February over disagreements on several issues, including the release of “political prisoners.”
“We are always open to peace negotiations. But the other side has to do better than present endless roadblocks to formal talks,” Padilla said.