ZAMBOANGA CITY: The government scored another victory over the New People’s Army (NPA) with the capture of ranking female leader Mercy Maghinay during operations in Sitio Guigang, Barangay Guibo, Siayan town, Zamboanga Del Norte on Monday.
Brig. Gen. Gerardo Barrientos Jr. commander of the 1st Infantry Division, said members of the Special Forces and 10th Infantry Battalion were on a routine security patrol when they encountered Maghinay’s group of 15-20 fighters near a rebel encampment.
When the rebels fled, they left behind Maghinay who is believed to be the leader of NPA’s Feliciano Bravo Command operating in the boundary of Zamboanga del Norte and Sibugay provinces.
Maghinay, a native of Zam–boanga del Sur, was tagged to the burning of P50.3 million equipment at a construction firm in Sitio Gusay, Barangay Titik, Sindangan town on November 19.
Barrientos, citing reports from Col. Apolinario Alobba, commander of the 101st Infantry Brigade in Zamboanga del Norte, said a shotgun, a .45 caliber pistol, a hand grenade and P100,000 were recovered from Maghinay.
He said there were no reports of military casualties and it was unknown if there were rebels killed or wounded in the fighting.
In 2008, Maghinay was arrested in General Santos City for murder, frustrated murder, destruction of government property and rebellion. But she was acquitted on all the charges for insufficient evidence.
“The capture of Maghinay is a big blow to the leadership of the NPA in Western Mindanao,” he said.
Barrientos urged rebels to surrender peacefully and avail of the government’s amnesty program and various livelihood aids and reunite with their families.
“The NPAs is on the run and they are tired and hungry and we urge them to return to the folds of the law and reunite with their families, join the mainstream society and live peacefully with the community,” he said.
“We shall ensure the safety and well-being of the NPAs who will lay down their arms. This is an opportunity to live peacefully and return to the comfort of their families. We are Filipinos and we all aspire for a peaceful country,” he added.
The NPA, armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, has been waging a secessionist war for decades now and previous peace talks had collapsed after Manila rejected several demands by rebel leaders and among them is for the government to free all political prisoners languishing in jails across the country.