DAVAO CITY, Philippines — Communist insurgents killed five civilians and kidnapped five soldiers in the southern Philippines on Tuesday in the latest of a series of violent acts following the collapse of peace talks, authorities said.
About 40 New People’s Army guerrillas attacked a tree plantation on the island of Mindanao on Tuesday, killing five workers and burning equipment, said military spokesman Colonel Ramon Zagala.
Just a day earlier, NPA fighters in another part of Mindanao seized five soldiers as they were passing through on motorcycles, he added.
Zagala condemned the latest attacks, saying this showed the communists were not interested in peace efforts.
“This is clearly contrary to what they’re saying, that they want to end violence… through peace talks,” he told AFP.
The attack on the tree plantation is part of an extortion attempt by the rebels, regional military spokesman Major Leo Bongosia said.
“The plantation did not give in to the NPA’s extortion demands. The usual tactic is to burn the equipment as a warning,” he said.
“Perhaps they fought back and resisted,” Bongosia told AFP when asked why he thought the civilian workers were shot dead by the rebels.
Some 171 kilometers away, in Davao City, an NPA unit abducted five soldiers as they were travelling unarmed and in civilian clothes to buy supplies for a community feeding program.
The kidnappers wore military-style uniforms, said the local military chief, Colonel Leopoldo Galon.
The soldiers from the Army’s 60th Infantry Battalion were held at gunpoint by insurgents in Lubas sub-village in Paquibato Proper village in Paquibato District at about 4:30 p.m., Captain Raul Villegas, Deputy Public Affairs Officer of the Army’s 10th Infantry Division, said Tuesday.
However, an officer identified as First Lieutenant Canitan escaped while his five other companions were taken hostage by the rebels.
Villegas identified the abducted soldiers as Corporal Emmanuel Quezon, Privates First Class Ronald Gura, Bernie Padilla, Donato Estandia and Private Marteniano Pasiagas Jr.
“The troops were in civilian attire without any firearm because they were going to the market [on two motorcycles] to procure food supplies and coordinate with an NGO (non-governmental organization) for the scheduled feeding program for the benefit of the community,” Villegas said.
Meanwhile, the rebels were dressed in military camouflage uniform [battle dress attire] and set up a roadblock in the area and posed as soldiers.
But Canitan sensed something unusual, and he leaped from the motorcycle and threw himself into a ravine to escape, Villegas said.
“It is very unfortunate that the NPA bandits took advantage of the situation to achieve their barbarity,” he added.
The NPA has been waging a 44-year Maoist armed campaign that has claimed at least 30,000 lives. The military estimates the NPA has about 4,000 fighters.
The government had been hoping to sign a pact to end the rebellion before President Benigno Aquino ended his six-year term in 2016. But it said in April that peace talks had collapsed.
Mindanao has long been a hotbed of the communist insurgency.
Three soldiers were killed on June 4 in another part of Mindanao when they stumbled into a communist guerrilla jungle training camp and walked on a landmine.
Eight police commandos died last month when communist rebels ambushed them on Luzon, the country’s biggest island which is home to the nation’s capital.
First posted 1:47 pm | Tuesday, June 18th, 2013