Officials dare rallyists: Prove 9 men aren’t rebels

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Wednesday, March 19, 2014


LOCAL authorities dared the Free Matanao 9 Movement members on Tuesday to prove their claim that the nine men who were arrested in the March 10 raid in Matanao, Davao del Sur were not members of the New People’s Army (NPA).

Arrested were Johnrey Moher; Jolito Sales; Rofo B Nabundasan; Roger Natunton; Christopher Sales; and Joey Alberca, all from North Cotabato; Noel Alba from South Cotabato; Lodemer Gama Bagumbayan from Davao del Sur; and Reynante Orot Paradise from General Santos City.

Dencio Madrigal, spokesperson of the NPA's Valentine Palamine Command who claimed responsibility for the raid, earlier said the nine were "hapless civilians who were on their way to attend a Sitio fiesta in Barangay Savoy in Matanao, when they were illegitimately accosted."

Some 300 individuals from families and friends of those nine suspected rebels, and support groups staged their simultaneous picket at the Freedom Park in Digos City, Hagonoy town and Padada Municipal Police Station in Davao del Sur yesterday, calling for the release of the nine, who are innocent and not members of the NPA.

Davao del Sur Provincial Police Office (DSPPO) newly–installed director Senior Superintendent Michael John Dubria in a phone interview, said he has nothing against the people behind the rally but he hopes that these people would respect the justice system.

"It's their right to stage a protest. Pero ito sasabihin ko, we have witnesses and evidence that hold the nine men responsible for the charges earlier filed against them. If they have evidence that will prove that the nine are not members of the communist group then they could submit it to us," Dubria said in a phone interview.

Dubria said the nine communist rebels were earlier charged with three counts if multiple murder, three counts of frustrated murder, malicious mischief, and robbery en banc, based on the evidences submitted to their office and from the witnesses who attested that the nine were involved on the attack at the Matanao police station.

"It's a legal case. We have a justice system. Let the court handle the case. And whatever will be the decision of the court... let's respect it. If you have a concrete evidence then file your complaints before the authorities," he added.

Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) deputy commander Brig. General Alexander Balutan echoed the same response also saying there is evidence and witnesses.

"Aside from that, ilan dun sa nine na nahuli ng ating kasundaluhan at kapulisan ay inamin na kasama sila duon sa nangyari sa Matanao police station and during the communist group's encounter with the government troops in Matanao," Balutan said.

"We have nothing against them. It is normal for them to defend their loved ones. Pero hayaan nalang sana natin mag grind ang rule of law. Karapatan ang pinaglalaban nila diba, karapatan din ng mga sundalo at pulis na nag buhis buhay ang magkaroon ng hustisya sa nangyari. Let's respect the justice system," Balutan said.

Two policemen and seven soldiers were killed, while 11 others were wounded in a series of attacks by rebels in Matanao on March 10. Two rebels were also killed after an encounter with soldiers belonging to the Army's 39th Infantry Battalion.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on March 19, 2014.

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