ZAMBOANGA CITY: Communist rebels have captured at least 2 policemen and an army soldier in daring operations in southern Philippines, where they put up checkpoints and roadblocks along highways in three provinces.
Police confirmed Monday that the New People’s Army is holding SPO3 Edwin Castor of Wao municipal police station in Lanao del Sur province in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM); and SPO1 Warren Coñales of the Impasugong municipal police station in Bukidnon province.
The Philippine Army did not release the identity of the soldier, but Maj. Ezra Balagtey, a spokesman for the Eastern Mindanao Command, said they are exerting efforts to rescue the “abducted PNP [Philippine National Police] and Army personnel without compromising the rule of law, respect of human rights and adherence to International Humanitarian Law.”
He said rebel forces set up checkpoints and blockades over the weekend along highways in Carmen town in Agusan Del Norte; Impasug-ong, Bukidnon; and Talisayan, Misamis Oriental.
It was not immediately known why police and military forces failed to detect or prevent the daring operations of rebels, but Balagtey was quick to denounce the NPA’s actions.
“The AFP’s [Armed Forces of the Philippines] Eastern Mindanao Command condemns the road blockades set up by the NPA,” Balagtey stressed. “This is a cowardly act for an armed group pretending to fight for the rights of the people.”
He added, “This is a dastardly act of projecting an image of strength at the expense of peace-loving communities. The conduct of roadblock is a desperate move after the NPA’s series of setbacks as a result of law enforcement operations and withdrawal of support by a number of their members and supporters in Northern and Southern Mindanao.”
NPA vows to exact revenge
The capture of the security personnel came after the NPA strongly denounced the brutal dispersal by policemen of the protesting farmers in Kidapawan City in North Cotabato that left three people dead and dozens more wounded, including two cops, who were injured in the clash.
Over 5,000 hungry farmers had barricaded the Davao-Cotabato Highway and demanded food aid from the government, saying their farms were devastated by drought brought about by the extreme weather phenomenon called El Niño.
“The National Democratic Front in Southern Mindanao and the entire revolutionary forces in the region are enraged by the bloody turn of events following the violent dispersal of the barricade mounted in Kidapawan City by struggling peasants and Lumads, who are reeling from the calamitous effects of El Niño in the province of North Cotabato,” Rubi del Mundo, an NPA spokesman, said.
Del Mundo also said there is no acceptable ground for the local government to exercise brute force against a peaceful barricade of hungry peasants and their families. He vowed to punish all those involved in the deadly police dispersal of protesters.
The NPA has been fighting for decades now for the establishment of a Maoist state in the country. AL JACINTO