THE Philippine Army’s 60th Infantry Battalion (IB) belied the accusations of a militant organization that they illegally arrested two farmers in Compostela Valley, saying that both voluntarily surrendered to the authorities.

Lieutenant Colonel Emmanuel Canilla, 60th IB commander told SunStar Davao on Tuesday, May 30, that the farmers identified as Kidjol Marcelo Antay Sr. and his wife Noeme initially surrendered to Indigenous People (IP) leaders and eventually were turned over to the army along with their firearms and explosive device.

“Walang katotohanan po yan, they surrendered,” Canilla said.

Karapatan Southern Mindanao Region, a human rights organization, earlier issued a statement claiming that the 60th IB illegally arrested the farmers Monday afternoon, May 29, by combined elements of 60th IB and Bagani force in Barangay Andap, Laak, Compostela Valley.

The Antays are active members of the Nagkahiusang Mag-uuma sa Laak and were brought to 60th Battalion camp in Doña Andrea Asuncion, Davao Del Norte.

However, Canilla was quick to deny the allegation and said that this is just one of the usual propaganda lines of the communists. The farmers are under the custody of the 60th IB and are undergoing verification process.

Currently, they are validating if the couple are members of the New People’s Army or merely supporters.

“Binibigyan natin sila ng chance na magkaroon ng peace of mind and mapagbigyan ng magandang buhay,” he said.

If they qualify, the couple will be enrolled to the Comprehensive Local Integration Program and they will be given financial and livelihood assistance. This is a peace and development effort of the government to encourage more rebels to return to the folds of the law. (JCR)