Army in Iloilo told: You killed a peasant leader, not rebel
ILOILO CITY — Farmers and human rights groups are condemning the killing of a peasant leader who had been tagged as a member of New People’s Army (NPA) whom the military said was killed in a clash in Miag-ao town, Iloilo province last Saturday (April 18).
The leftist groups were also calling for the release of 11 persons, including minors, who were captured by the military and tagged as rebels.
The farmers group Pamanggas said John Farochilin was one of its council members and chair of the local peasant group Alyansa sang Mangunguma sa Miag-ao.
“We are saddened as we are angry at the cold-blooded murder of a dedicated peasant leader,” Cris Chavez, Pamanggas secretary general said.
Chavez said Farochilin was a key leader in the campaign to address hunger and poverty among farmers of Iloilo and to seek government assistance at the height of the El Niño weather phenomenon.
The Army’s 3rd Infantry Division (3ID) said soldiers of the 61st Infantry Battalion overran a rebel camp at the village of Cabalunan in Miag-ao and killed one rebel after a 35-minute gunfight.
The 3ID said in a statement that soldiers arrested seven persons, including a minor, and recovered firearms, improvised explosive devices, medical paraphernalia and rebel documents.
In another statement, the 301st Brigade said soldiers had captured rebels, including five minors.
But the NPA’s Mt. Napulak Command, which operates in southern Panay, denied that a clash occurred between rebels and government soldiers.
In a statement, Ilaya Kanaway, the command’s spokesperson, said no rebel was killed or captured as there was no clash in the first place.
The human rights groups Karapatan said those arrested were civilians and residents of the village of Igpanulong in Sibalom town in Antique province.
Reylan Vergara, citing an account of the mother of one of those arrested, said the men captured by the military were just gathering honey from beehives which they intended to sell when they were chanced upon by the soldiers.
In another statement, the 303rd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army lauded the bravery of soldiers of the 94th Infantry Battalion during a clash with NPA rebels at a village in Himamaylan City, Negros Occidental province last Sunday (April 19).
Maj. Franco Ver Lopez, civil military officer of the 303rd Infantry Brigade, said 2Lt Ralf Amante Abibico, Cpl Joel Nobleza and Pfc Carl Venice Bustamante sacrificed their lives to protect the people from alleged extortion by NPA.
Four soldiers, who were wounded in the gun battle, were in stable condition, he said. They were Cpl John Cris M. Laus, PFC John Paul M. Geonzon, Cpl Lismer Jade J. Tumayao and Pfc Alexis I.Mepranum. With a report by Carla P. Gomez
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