ZAMBOANGA CITY: Communist rebels arrested a Philippine Army soldier in Compostela Valley on Friday and declared him a prisoner of war, a New People’s Army spokesperson said.
Aris Francisco announced over the weekend the capture of Sgt. Jeric Bucio Curay, a member of the 72nd Infantry Battalion, in Laak town on April 4.
Curay was travelling on a motorcycle when he was flagged down at a checkpoint in Andap village.
Francisco, whose group operates in the provinces of Com–postela Valley, Davao and Agusan, said the soldier is currently being interrogated to determine his involvement in “counterrevolutionary and anti-people” activities in Laak town.
“Consistent with its practice of lenient treatment towards POWs, the NPA custodial force ensures the safety and security of POW Curay as he undergoes an investigation for his involvement in counterrevolutionary and anti-people activities in Laak,” he said.
Francisco said the arrest of Curay coincided with the NPA’s renewed campaign against the 72nd Infantry Battalion whom he accused along with the 60th Infantry Battalion of protecting big logging firms “which have wiped out the forests of Davao del Norte, Compostela Valley and Agusan del Sur provinces.”
He said the wanton destruction of remaining forest cover and unchecked commercial logging in the provinces have greatly impoverished indigenous Lumad tribesmen and peasants and have made them more vulnerable to environmental disasters and climate change.
Francisco also accused politicians and policemen as among those behind indiscriminate logging operations in eastern Mindanao.
“They stand to face NPA sanction against environmental plunderers and destroyers of people’s livelihood,” he said.
“Aside from being goons for logging companies, the 60th Infantry Battalions and the 72nd Infantry Battalion are actively holding checkpoints to harass residents suspected as [members of]revolutionary forces; the soldiers take pictures of these civilians,” he added.
Francisco said government troops harassed peasants by destroying their crops, adding that soldiers also killed two peasants in previous military operations.
“In the face of these abuses, the NPA has intensified its tactical offensives against the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP),” Francisco said.
“The NPA shall persevere in punishing logging lords and their AFP protectors. The arrest of Curay and other tactical offensives should serve a strong warning against enemy troops that continue to protect exploiters of remaining natural resources at the expense of environmental preservation and people’s welfare.”
The rebels have previously taken soldiers as prisoners, but eventually freed them on humanitarian grounds. There was no immediate statement from the military on Francisco’s accusations, but army officials usually deny all allegations by the rebel group, which has been fighting for decades now for the establishment of a communist state in the country.