Soldiers take 3 union leaders over ‘links’ to rebels
DAVAO CITY — Three leaders of a union affiliated with the militant Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) were forcibly taken allegedly by soldiers from their houses in Pantukan town, Compostela Valley, on Tuesday, according to a KMU spokesperson.
Carl Anthony Olalo of KMU in Southern Mindanao identified the three as Esperidion Cabaltera, president; Richard Genabe, vice president; and Ronald Rosales, secretary, all of Musahamat Workers Labor Union.
They are regular workers of Musahamat Farms Inc., a banana exporting company based in Compostela Valley.
KMU, in a statement, said soldiers from the Army’s 71st Infantry Battalion (IB) took the three union leaders, but Lt. Col. Ezra Balagtey, spokesperson for the Eastern Mindanao Command, claimed they voluntarily surrendered.
“I just talked with the staff of the 71st IB. They confirmed that the three labor leaders reported to their headquarters seeking their security assistance,” Balagtey told the Inquirer.
He said the three labor leaders were released on Thursday afternoon.
According to Olalo, when Genabe and Cabaltera arrived at the latter’s house at Barangay Bongabong in Pantukan, they were surprised to find seven soldiers waiting for them.
“The soldiers invited both of them to clear their names because, according to the military, they belong to a workers’ union affiliated with KMU, a known supporter of the New People’s Army (NPA),” Olalo said.
Genabe and Cabaltera were immediately taken to the camp of the 10th Infantry Division in Mawab, Compostela Valley.
Also on Tuesday, four soldiers took Rosales from his house at Crossing Magnaga in Pantukan reportedly for questioning on his affiliation with KMU.
KMU assailed what it called “abduction” of the three leaders, saying it was a “violation of workers’ rights.”
“They are in no way connected to the NPA. They should be lauded as community leaders and not branded as terrorists,” it added.