THE military on Wednesday said New People’s Army (NPA) rebels attacked a convoy of troops escorting social workers and a media group that delivered relief assistance to victims of the 6.7-magnitude earthquake in Surigao del Norte.
Army Major Ezra Balagtey, spokesman for the Eastern Mindanao Command, said the rebels opened fire at the convoy near Malimono town on Tuesday night. He added that the soldiers returned fire prompting the rebels to cease firing. There was no report of casualties from both sides.
“We condemn in the strongest terms the action of the NPAs that despite their declaration of a ceasefire they ambushed an aid convoy that delivered relief goods to the victims of the earthquake in Surigao. The atrocity committed by this armed lawless group has added to the suffering and misery of the people who are trying to recover from the devastation brought by the earthquake,” Balagtey said.
The NPA – which declared a temporary ceasefire in the province to allow the delivery of relief assistance – denied it was behind the strafing. It accused the military of staging the attack.
The rebel group also released a video clip of two captured soldiers – Sgt. Solaiman Calocop and Patrolman First Class Samuel Garay – appealing to the government to cease military rescue operations because it could endanger their lives. Both soldiers, members of the 39th Infantry Battalion, were captured on February 2 in Colombio, Sultan Kudarat.
The two soldiers are currently being investigated by the rebel court for human rights violations. However, Dencio Madrigal, spokesman for the Valentin Palamine Command holding the soldiers, said the two are being treated in accordance with international humanitarian laws.
“The two (soldiers) are now being investigated for their involvement in the crimes perpetrated by the 39th Infantry Battalion against the people and the revolutionary movement,” Madrigal said.
“The two prisoners of war also appealed to their battalion commander and the Armed Forces of the Philippines to cease all military operations as these only endanger their lives and safety. At present, however, combat troops of the 39th Infantry Battalion are still operating in Sultan Kudarat while their peace and development outreach program teams continue to treat the enclaves of peasant and Lumad communities as military garrisons,” Madrigal added.