3 rebels killed in Masbate clash
Three suspected communist rebels on Tuesday were killed in a clash with government troops pursuing people behind the land mine blast in Masbate City that killed a university football player and his cousin on Sunday, police said.
Police Maj. Maria Luisa Calubaquib, spokesperson for the Bicol regional police, said a firefight ensued when at least 30 suspected New People’s Army (NPA) members fired at a team composed of policemen and soldiers that was serving an arrest warrant to murder suspect Arnold Rosero in Barangay Anas at 5:30 a.m. on Tuesday.
The bodies of three unidentified rebels were found at the clash site after the 15-minute firefight. The police did not report any casualty on the government team.
Calubaquib said the operation was part of a pursuit operation to identify the people behind the deaths of Far Eastern University football player
Kieth Absalon, 21, and his cousin Nolven Absalon, 40, who were killed when a land mine exploded as they were biking in Barangay Anas on Sunday morning. Nolven’s son, Chrisbin Daniel, 16, was wounded in the blast.
Authorities believe a group of NPA rebels under Rosero’s leadership was responsible for planting and detonating the bomb along a village road where the Absalons were passing.
Appeal to Duterte
Army Capt. John Paul Belleza, 9th Infantry Division public affairs chief, said government troops also found 14 M16 rifles, an M653 rifle, an M14 rifle, bullets, tents and bomb parts in a nipa hut at the boundary of the villages of Anas and Bolo.
Vilma, Kieth’s mother, has appealed to President Rodrigo Duterte to help their family get justice.
“I hope the President could help us to find justice for my … son who was just starting to dream of giving honor to the country,” she said.
In an earlier interview, Kieth’s relatives said they believed the NPA rebels mistook the cousins for soldiers.
Kieth’s uncle, Domingo Absalon Jr., said he saw bullet wounds on the bodies of Kieth and Nolven when he found them on a grassy area after the explosion.
Police Brig. Gen. Jonnel Estomo, Bicol police chief, said police and Army checkpoints had been set up in several areas in Masbate following the land mine explosion.
The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said it would look into the deaths of the Absalon cousins.
According to CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia, the use of land mines goes against international humanitarian law (IHL), which limits the effects of armed conflict on people and property.
Both state actors and organizations not affiliated with the government, such as the NPA, must comply with IHL, she said.
“Not only do they cause exceptionally severe injuries, suffering and death, antipersonnel land mines also fail to distinguish between civilians and combatants, such as what happened in this case,” De Guia said.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, in November 2020, expressed concern about the use of explosive devices as land mines, which were responsible for civilian casualties in many countries, including the Philippines.
—WITH A REPORT FROM NIKKA G. VALENZUELA
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