Suspect in killings of lumad leaders seen with soldiers in Agusan Sur – NDF
SAN FRANCISCO, Agusan del Sur, Philippines – One of the suspects in the Sept. 1 killing of a school director and two lumad leaders in Lianga, Surigao del Sur, was recently seen in the company of government troops, the National Democratic Front (NDF), the political arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army, said.
Ka Maria Malaya, spokesperson of the NDF-Northeastern Mindanao, in a press statement said the suspect, a leader of the paramilitary Magahat-Bagani, was seen accompanying the Philippine Army’s 3rd Special Forces Battalion during clashes with New People’s Army rebels in a remote village in Prosperidad town last week.
But Col. Alexander Macario, commander of the 401st Army Brigade, said the NDF’s claim was plain propaganda.
“No sensible soldier would ever sit beside wanted persons,” Macario told local mediamen in an interview.
Macario said no military official in his right mind would ever allow his career to be tainted by coddling criminals.
Malaya said that seen during the encounter was Bobby Tejero, one of the suspects in the killings of Emerito Samarca, the director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agriculture and Livelihood Development (Alcadev) school, and tribal leaders Dionel Campus and Datu Jovello Sinzo.
Tejero, his brother Loloy and Garito Layno have been tagged as leaders in the Sept. 1 killings. Warrants for their arrest have been issued by a local court, but they have remained at large.
Aside from Bobby Tejero, Anit Belandres, brother of Marcial Belandres, the suspect in the killing of lumad leader Henry Alameda in October 2014, was also spotted in the same encounter.
“Definitely, they are not here with us,” Macario said in a chance interview on Saturday.
The provincial government of Surigao del Sur has been supporting close to 3,000 lumad evacuees who have been staying at the sports complex in Tandag City for more than four months now. The evacuees come from different towns where the para-military group Magahat-Bagani has been operating.
Most of the evacuees are from Lianga, Surigao del Sur. They fled their homes after members of the Magahat-Bagani swooped down on Sitio Han-ayan in Barangay Diatagon and killed Samarca, Campos and Sinzo. Pimentel earlier said the Magahat-Bagani was created, trained, armed and funded by the military, an allegation that the Armed Forces of the Philippines denied.
Pimentel said members of the paramilitary group were freely roaming the towns of Surigao del Sur, and yet the military failed to arrest them.
Maj. Gen. Rey Reynaldo Guerrero, chief of the military’s Eastern Mindanao Command, admitted that they received intelligence reports about the Magahat-Bagani’s locations and sightings, “But our efforts to arrest them have yet to yield positive results.” Guerrero said intelligence reports they received about Magahat’s movements were usually late, so their responses would already be “after the fact.”
Last week, troops belonging to the 16th Infantry Battalion, which was based in Oriental Mindoro, arrived in Surigao del Sur.
But Pimentel said the 16th IB was deployed for counter-insurgency operations, not to go after the Magahat-Bagani.
The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), in a recent circular, announced the putting up of a P3.6-million bounty or P1.2 million each for the arrest of the Tejero brothers and Layno.
Malaya earlier claimed that eight soldiers were killed and seven were wounded while only one NPA rebel was slightly wounded in three separate clashes between government troops and communist guerillas in Barangay (village) Mabuhay on January 15 and 16.
Macario, however, refuted this, saying no Army soldier was even hurt in the encounters and instead they seized an NPA encampment where they discovered a huge arms cache and volumes of subversive documents.
The animosity between the Army and the NPA came in the wake of the surrender of Datu Calpet Egua, the highest ranking leader of the Magahat-Bagani tribal warriors who immediately posted P80,000 in bail for the robbery charges he faced at the local court in Lianga last year.
A militant tribal group, Kahugpungan sa Lumadnong Organisasyon-Caraga (Kasalo-Caraga), said Egua’s surrender was only meant to pacify the clamor for justice for those killed in the atrocities done by the paramilitary Magahat-Bagani.
“Robbery is a bailable offense. It is easy for an arrested person who controls gold mining and falcatta plantations in Manhulayan in the boundaries of Prosperidad town and Bayugan City to post bail so he can avoid imprisonment and continue leading the bandit Magahat-Bagani in committing crimes,” Kasalo said in a statement. SFM
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