Karapatan says 3 advocates abducted, but Army firm on its arrest account
MANILA, Philippines — A human rights watchdog said that three “rights advocates” were reportedly abducted by the Philippine Army, however, the latter insisted that the three personalities were arrested for being members of the New People’s Army (NPA).
On September 19, Job Abednego David, 29; Peter del Monte, 29; and Alia Encela, 19, were allegedly held by elements of the 4th Infantry Battalion under the 203rd Infantry Brigade, Philippine Army in Sitio Malaglag, Barangay Lisap, Bongabong in Oriental Mindoro, according to Karapatan Southern Tagalog’s (ST) statement on Tuesday.
Rev. Luisito Saliendra, spokesperson of Karapatan ST, said that due to the circumstances, David, del Monte, and Encela are “under duress and deprived of remedies that should be available to them.”
“They should receive proper attention under human rights standards,” Saliendra added.
However, General Randolph Cabangbang, commanding officer of the 203rd IB, purported that David, Del Monte and Encelo were NPA members who were apprehended during military operations on Sept. 23.
Cabangbang said that Encela joined the Maoist group in January 2023 while David and Del Monte have been with the NPA for more than six years.
“During the capture, they attempted to resist and reach for some object inside their bags but upon seeing that they have been surrounded, decided to heed the soldiers call not to move anymore,” Cabangbang said in a statement on Wednesday.
The official even said that “they were in possession of improvised landmines and grenades inside their bags that they probably planned to use in ambushing government troops.”
Cabangbang castigated Karapatan for spreading lies surrounding the recent capture of three communist terrorists in Oriental Mindoro and for using the issue to amass money through an “alert-surface-donation-release” (ASDR) scheme.
“Mga sinungaling kayo, mga mandurugas,” Cabangbang said during a virtual press conference by the Integrated Communications Office Center (ICOC), the media bureau of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).
In the same press conference, Director-designate Joel Sy Egco, ICOC head and NTF-ELCAC spokesman, also lambasted Karapatan for duping the public calling the captured rebels – Alia Encela, Peter del Monte and Job David – as “IP advocates” (Indigenous People).
“They are fake IP advocates. Hindi nga nila (3 rebels) alam na IP advocates sila, ang alam nila ay NPA (New People’s Army) sila,” Egco told the media.
This was affirmed by Cabangbang, saying that even the three were stunned when they learned Karapatan was calling them IP advocates.
Egco said Karapatan and other communist terrorist groups (CTGs) use the “ASDR” template not only to generate funds to aid terror activities of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing NPA, but also as a tool to recruit from the youth sector as young as junior and senior high school students and out-of-school youth (OSY) from vulnerable communities.
“The three are not aware they’re IP advocates,” said Cabangbang, even as he urged the public not to subscribe to the donation campaign of the CTGs.
However, Karapatan stressed that the three personalities were in the province to probe “human rights violations in connection to reports of bombings and shelling by the 203rd IB around the area earlier this year.”
“This is a deeply concerning trend of state violence from the US Counterinsurgency Guide-inspired national security policy of the Marcos Jr. administration,” Saliendra said, adding that the series of test fire exercises, aerial bombings, and strafing affected over 10,000 residents in Oriental Mindoro towns.
In response to this allegation, Cabangbang said that the area where the trio were apprehended was a rebel base.
“There are no inhabitants or farms in the area and it is the traditional base of the NPA.
“The area is frequently the objective of military operations every time the NPAs are monitored occupying their base.
“No damage to life or property is reported by anyone contrary to the claims of Karapatan. Only the NPAs are affected during massive combat operations,” Cabangbang said.
Karapatan also noted that David and Del Monte’s families both received messages from “a suspicious Facebook account” claiming to be Cabangbang.
Cabangbang, however, confirmed that three personalities were contacted after their apprehension and inquest proceedings.
“I gave my true identity and personal number to the relatives. I wanted to be the one to tell them of the good news that their children are safe and in good spirits.
“The relatives of Job and Peter did not answer my personal messages (via Messenger) at once and sadly, reported my effort of reaching out to them to persons introducing themselves as members of Karapatan-NCR.
“However, after a few days of persistently contacting them, the parents of Peter and Job accepted our calls,” the military official said.
On the other hand, Cabangbang noted that Encela and her mother was reunited on September 28.