THE communist New People’s Army (NPA) has claimed responsibility for the disarming of a village chief and 11 of his barangay tanod (village watchmen) in a daring raid in North Cotabato on Sunday.
But the NPA, in a statement, denied it abducted Barangay Chairman Michael Lingaro and his village watchmen.
“There is absolutely no truth to the AFP’s [Armed Forces of the Philippines] pathetic and desperate claims that the NPA unit abducted Barangay Captain Michael Lingaro and his men or used them as ‘human shield’ following the successful disarming,” Rigoberto Sanchez, NPA Southern Mindanao spokesman, said in the statement.
Sanchez added that the communist rebels, disguised as government troops, seized 32 assorted weapons from Lingaro and his men in the village of Mahongkog in Magpet town during the weekend raid.
“Without firing a single shot and posing as enemy troops, Red fighters of the Mount Apo Sub-Regional Command-NPA in Southern Mindanao disarmed a barangay [village]captain and his men, confiscating 32 firearms and other military hardware in Barangay Mahongkog,” he said.
The Police Regional Office 12 (PRO 12) in General Santos City, which has jurisdiction over North Cotabato’s 17 towns and capital, Kidapawan City, first reported Lingaro’s abduction at about noontime on Sunday.
PRO 12, in a text advisory to reporters, said the village chairman was abducted by NPA rebels.
Members of the municipal peace and order council in Magpet and nearby towns said the group that raided Mahungcog was led by Commander Joel Pulido of the NPA’s Guerilla Front 53.
Mahungcog is a hinterland village surrounded by mountain ranges believed to be lairs of NPA guerrillas.
Sanchez said rebel forces confiscated two M16 automatic rifles, one M4 Bushmaster assault rifle, two M14 rifles, two Garand rifles, four Carbine rifles, two M79 grenade launchers, four .45-caliber pistols, two 9mm pistols, one Uzi sub-machine gun, a dozen shotguns and 91 assorted magazines, including 12 vests and four military radio handsets.
He added that rebels held a dialogue with villagers, explaining the purpose of the raid before withdrawing from the area where the military has stepped up recruitment of spies and launched anti-insurgency operations.
There was no immediate statement from the military on Sanchez’s accusations.
Peace negotiators recently signed an interim ceasefire deal during resumption of talks in The Netherlands but agreement this has to be approved by President Rodrigo Duterte and the NPA before it could take effect.
With report from JULMUNIR I. JANNARAL