NPA exec tagged behind abduction of 6 poll bets-A A +A
Sunday, October 27, 2013
AN OFFICER of the Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) said Saturday that the troops believe that a leader of the New People’s Army (NPA) is behind the abduction of the six candidates in next week's barangay elections.
Eastmincom’s public information officer Captain Alberto Caber said the troops believe that the Guerilla Front 34 of Southern Mindanao Regional Committee of the NPA led by a certain Maximo Catarata, alias Tindugan, was responsible for the abduction last October 24.
Troops belonging to the Eastmincom launched on Friday a massive manhunt against suspected NPA members, who attacked a patrol base and abducted Lito Andalaque, Balaba Andalaque, Reynaldo Piodos, Marvin Bantuasan, Gina Bantuasan, and Pepe Subla, all residents of Barangay Sabud. All six barangay officials are seeking elective posts in the October 28 elections.
Caber, in a phone interview, said the hostages are all seeking for elective posts in tomorrow's barangay elections.
As of this posting, the captives have remained in the hands of the NPA rebels.
Caber said soldiers belonging to the Army's 26th Infantry Battalion under 4th Infantry Division in coordination with the Loreto Municipal Police Station are conducting pursuit operation to rescue the six barangay leaders.
Loreto town Mayor Dario Otaza, who is also the chair of the Municipal Crisis Management Committee, asked Saturday the assistance of three datus or leaders of indigenous peoples to negotiate for the safe release of the victims.
Otaza and the families of the victims are now hoping that those abducted will be released before tomorrow's election.
As to whether the election in the barangay will push through, Caber said the decision depends on the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
Lieutenant Colonel Jose Leonard Gille, commander of the 26th Infantry Battalion, said there were around 40 members of the Guerilla Front 34 who attacked a temporary patrol base in Sabud before sunrise on Thursday.
"While the troops were defending their base, other rebels entered the barangay proper and forced some 70 locals to leave their houses. The NPA rebels herded the people into one place," Gille said.
He said one of their soldiers was wounded in the encounter.
"A rescue military helicopter was supposed to land for medical evacuation but was fired upon by the rebels. Thanks God at wala namang nasaktan sa community and dun sa magre-rescue sana. Unfortunately, six local leaders were abducted," Gille said.
Citing the Geneva Convention & Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (Carhrihl), Gille said any wounded personnel, may it be a soldier or a rebel should be considered a non-combatant.
In the wake of the fresh attack on government troops, Gille said the 26th Infantry Battalion's Peace and Development Teams will remain in the area "as our presence is deemed necessary to protect and assist the people of Loreto from NPA with the aid of the local government."
The Comval North Davao South Agusan Sub-Regional Command of the NPA, in a statement emailed to media organizations on Friday, admitted that their members abducted only five and not six barangay leaders from Loreto town in Agusan del Sur.
Aris Francisco, Comval North Davao spokesperson, said the NPA raided the detachment of the 26th Infantry Battalion in Barangay Mansanitas in Loreto town and held captured five paramilitary forces.
Francisco said four of the five members of the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Units (Cafgu) were armed barangay officials. He added that their members confiscated two shotgun rifles and one .357 pistol from their captives.
Francisco said the red fighters also thwarted a platoon of reinforcement forces of the 26th Infantry Battalion in a firefight that yielded around five fatalities on military side, adding that the troops dropped bombs in the community.
The Eastmincom did not confirm deaths on their troops. The Eastmincom also denied the accusation of the NPA that the troops dropped bombs in the area.
"Thursday's tactical offensive was the NPA's campaign against a fascist army unit and its paramilitary machinery responsible for butchering two leaders -- Gabriel Alindao and Benjie Planos, of the Kahugpungan Alang sa Kalambuan sa Kauswagan," Francisco said.
Francisco added the five barangay leaders are currently accorded with rights as prisoners of war -- their health and safety at the auspices of the NPA's custodial force. (With reports from VR/Sunnex)