THE 4th Infantry Division (4ID) said massive pursuit operations against communist rebels are ongoing following the abduction of two soldiers and 12 militiamen in Sibagat town, Agusan del Sur on Wednesday, December 19.

The New People's Army (NPA) said it is now holding the soldiers and militiamen as prisoners of war (POW).

Captain Reggie Go, 4ID's acting spokesperson, said they have yet to release the names of the soldiers as the families are not yet informed.

Go said the 4ID has also organized a board of inquiry to investigate the incident and possibly sanction personnel if neglect of duty is proven.

The 4ID also reminded the NPA that the soldiers are protected by provisions of the International Humanitarian Law, which requires rebels to inform the families of the captured, status and location, and the soldiers' right to contact their families.

Aside from abducting soldiers, the NPA under the Guerilla Front Committee 21 also carted away M16 rifles, M14 rifles, and a handheld radio.

Meanwhile, in a statement posted on its website, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) applauded what it called a "successful tactical offensives mounted by the NPA in Agusan del Sur which is a resounding blow against the Duterte regime’s martial law rule in Mindanao and across the country."

The CPP said all of the captured POW are "being treated leniently" and that they will be released soon if the government troops lessen their offensives too.

"The tactical offensives of the NPA displays the superiority of the NPA in terms of support of the people and mastery in guerrilla warfare. It also manifests demoralization among the AFP and paramilitary forces who are being used as canon fodder in defense of a rotten system and corruption of their superiors. We urge all enemy foot soldiers to surrender to the NPA. The Party calls on the NPA to mount more tactical offensives in the next few weeks and months to defeat Duterte’s all-out war and fascist attacks against the people’s democratic rights and livelihood," it said.

The abduction came after troops also seized two major hideouts of the NPA in Bukidnon and Agusan del Sur last week. The hideouts were believed to be possible venue of the 50th anniversary of the CPP on December 26. (SunStar Cagayan de Oro)