THE legal offensive launched by state forces against the New People's Army (NPA) is in effect, as law enforcers continue on the search for suspected members of the NPA who have outstanding warrants of arrest after three insurgents were apprehended, authorities said Saturday, June 4.

Captain Joe Patrick Martinez, spokesman of the Philippine Army's 4th Infantry Division based in Cagayan de Oro, said the arrest of Roldan Bunggolto, Danilo Acania and Jake Borja is part of the military's aggressive campaign against Maoist guerrillas through legal means.

The suspects were arrested by virtue of search and arrest warrants in Sitio Lamusig, Barangay Tungao, Butuan City on Friday, June 3.

Bunggolto is the head of the NPA's Militia ng Bayan in Agusan del Norte, while Acania is the group's deputy secretary. Borja has pending frustrated murder and multiple murder cases.

Martinez said since the military has stepped up its legal offensive against the NPA, many of the rebels have been charged with various criminal offenses.

Witnesses have started to come out, too, as authorities are encouraging them to testify against offenders, he said.

This new approach of going after the Maoist insurgents is being carried out on orders of 4ID chief Major General Benjamin Madrigal Jr.

"The army's focus now, under the guidance Madrigal, is more on legal offensive and less on combat operations," Martinez told Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro, although he added government soldiers are ready to defend themselves if engaged by rebels.

With the coordination of the Philippine National Police, he said they now have basis to come in through court-issued warrants.

"We now have legitimate reason to enter an area, with the police, to serve warrants and enforce the law," Martinez said.

During the arrest of the suspects, assorted firearms were confiscated from them including M16, AK47 and sniper rifles, and .38 and .22 caliber

pistols, two hand grenades, and an improvised explosive device (IED). Documents were also seized.

Inspectors Andrev Bautista and Julius Caesar Alamani, the investigating officers, who led the team from the Regional Public Safety Battalion Region (RPSB)-Caraga, facilitated the investigation and have considered the possible filing of additional cases of illegal possession of explosives, firearms and ammunitions from the three suspects, Martinez said.

He said Madrigal has encouraged other rebels to go back to the society.

"The long arm of the law has finally reached these criminals. I congratulate the joint effort of our government troops, the PNP and Army in this side of the region. I am happy that there was no unnecessary loss of lives during the implementation of the operation," Martinez quoted Madrigal as saying.

"For the NPA remnants, our only wish is to see our communities free of any form of violence. We also want you to go back to your family and end this nonsense armed struggle. We ask you to give peace a chance," Madrigal added.