ZAMBOANGA CITY: Authorities have freed three teenagers who were arrested along with five men, mostly war refugees, on suspicion they were rebels.
The Mindanao Human Rights Action Center reported on Tuesday that the teenagers had been released by the police on Monday in Sultan Kudarat province. They were seized by soldiers on June 23, while trying to get their belongings in the village of Kulasi where rebels and soldiers had clashed.
It said that those arrested were villagers who fled the fighting, but the military said the group was carrying explosives, an accusation strongly denied by the victims.
Zainudin Malang, MinHRAC executive director, said those arrested were civilians displaced by the fighting in the village and that they were taken by soldiers while on their way to briefly go to their homes to salvage their belongings.
“The men were asked by their families to take advantage of a lull in the shelling and get direly needed basic living supplies from their homes which they earlier evacuated to escape the shelling. The men carried with them a white flag to indicate they are not combatants,” he said.
Malang said that the freed minors were reunited with their parents and guardians.