BY JOHN RIZLE L. SALIGUMBA
Davao City — The New People’s Army has given a “prisoner of war” status to “five Cafgu paramilitary forces” who were “captured” in the village center of Barangay Mansanitas, Loreto town, Agusan del Sur after they raided a detachment of the Philippine Army’s 26th Infantry Battalion, 11am of October 24.
In a statement, Ka Aris Francisco, spokesperson of the Comval North Davao South Agusan Sub Regional Command of the NPA said the five included four “armed village officials.”
The NPA named the five “prisoners of war” as Barangay captain Lito Andalique, kagawad Marvin Bantuasan, Crisanto Piodos, and Balaba Andalique, and Cafgu tribal member Pepe Subla.
Francisco said that the five “are currently accorded rights as prisoners of war (POWs), their health and safety at the auspices of the NPA’s custodial force.”
He said that the NPA’s “tactical offensive” is part of their “campaign against a fascist Army unit and its paramilitary machinery responsible for butchering two peasant leaders–Gabriel Alindao and Benjie Planos of the peasant group Kahugpungan Alang sa Kalambuan sa Kauswagan or Kasaka–detaining and torturing two civilian Lumad minors, and conducting massive harassment and counter-revolutionary drive against the peasant masses in Loreto, Agusan del Sur.”
The Eastern Mindanao Command of the Armed Forces of the Phillipines, in a press release emailed to davaotoday.com claims that the NPA held “six lumads.”
“The hostages are all barangay election candidates identified as Lito Andalaque; Balaba Andalaque; Reynaldo Piodos; Marvin Bantuasan; Gina Bantuasan and Pepe Subla,” said the AFP statement released by Cpt. Alberto C. Caber.
“They are still being held captive by the NPA kidnappers who are obviously trying to influence the barangay election,” the statement said.
However, the NPA denied the allegation saying it was “farfetched” to say that the “arrest” indicated that they were somehow involved in the October 28 barangay elections.
The NPA said that “(t)he five POWs are not ordinary civilians and reelectionist village officials but are counter-revolutionary paramilitary forces and are, thus, legitimate targets of the NPA.”
The statement said that the “POWs” are “psychological warfare agents, who banned the masses from going to their farms and forcing them to remain at the village centers, in a blatant attempt to control their movement” while they “endorsed the entry of palm oil and mining projects-—projects that will eventually dislocate the masses and deprive Lumads of their ancestral domain.”
The NPA also claimed securing two shotguns and a .357 revolver and killing five soldiers in Thursday’s clash.
Lt. Gen. Rainier Cruz, commanding general of the Eastmincom maintains that is “another gross violation of the CARHRIHL by the NPA in attacking civilians.”
For the NPA, however, what they did was “to protect the successes of the People’s Democratic Government by punishing the enemy and enforcing revolutionary justice.”
Armed conflict and cases of human rights violations in Loreto, Agusan del Sur, have hogged the headlines in the recent months, involving no less than its mayor to whom residents say have favored military operations alongside foreign palm oil and mining encroachment in the area. (davaotoday.com)Agusan del Sur, Bakwet, dario otasa, eastmincom, Loreto, Loreto Palm Oil, NPA AFP, npa prisoner of war, pow, prisoner of war