NPA rebels kill 5 soldiers, capture 4 village officials in southern Philippines

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New People’s Army rebels have killed at least 5 government soldiers and captured five militias in a raid on a village in the southern Philippines, a spokesman for the group told The Times on Saturday.

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Aris Francisco, of the NPA’s Comval North Davao South Agusan Sub Regional Command, said rebel forces stormed the post of the 26th Infantry Battalion in the village of Mansanitas in Loreto town and killed the soldiers who tried to reinforce the beleaguered troops in the area.

He said four of those captured by rebels included the village chieftain Lito Andalique and his council members Marvin Bantuasan, Crisanto Piodos and Balaba Andalique, and Cafgu militia and tribal member Pepe Subla. He said rebels also seized weapons during the raid in the village.

Franciso said the attack was in response to the murders of two peasant leaders – Benjie Planos and Gabriel Alindao – by the army and pro-government militias. He said the two murdered men were leaders of the peasant group called Kahugpungan Alang sa Kalambuan sa Kauswagan.

He also accused security forces harassing farmers and villagers and for detaining and torturing minors who refused to spy for the military in the town.

“The tactical offensive is the NPA’s campaign against a fascist Army unit and its paramilitary machinery responsible for butchering two peasant leaders Gabriel Alindao and Benjie Planos,” Francisco said.

He said the captured militias now prisoners of war and would be tried by a rebel court.

Captain Alberto Caber, a spokesman for the Eastern Mindanao Command, said those abducted are politicians who are candidates in the October 28 village polls. He said the rebel NPA is harassing political candidates who are not paying so-called “campaign fees” and that rebels are also trying to influence the outcome of the elections.

Army Lieutenant General Ricardo Rainier Cruz III, chief of the Eastern Mindanao Command, also accused the rebel group of human rights violations and demanded the safe release of the hostages. “This is another gross violation of the international human rights law and we demand that they immediately release all the hostages,” he said.

But Francisco said the village officials, who are “counter-revolutionary paramilitary forces” is a legitimate target of the NPA.

“Nothing can be so farther from the truth as to the far-fetched claim by Lieutenant General Rainier Cruz that the arrest of the village officials was the NPA’s act of involving itself in the forthcoming reactionary exercise of barangay elections,” he said.

“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. These POWs have campaigned hard against the NPAs, harassed peasant leaders, and strongly endorsed the entry of palm oil and mining projects that that will eventually dislocate the masses and deprive Lumads of their ancestral domain,” he added.

Francisco said the NPA is persevering in its “anti-feudal and anti-fascist struggle,” expanding numerous councils in the countryside while putting up welfare projects to sustain the basic needs of the masses. “It is only warranted for the NPA to protect the successes of the People’s Democratic Government by punishing the enemy and enforcing revolutionary justice,” he said.

Just recently, NPA rebels also ambushed a military truck and killed at least 8 soldiers and militias in the the village of Caridad in North Cotabato’s Tulunan town. The troops were transporting salaries of government militias when the attack occurred.

The NPA is the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines which has been waging a secessionist war for many decades now. Peace talks with different Philippine presidents have failed in the past and communist leaders are still demanding the freedom of all hundreds of its rebel commanders and political activists languishing in various prisons across the country. AL JACINTO

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