Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Top Army field commander in Bicol extends hand of peace to NPA rebs
By Jorge Hallare and John Mark Escandor

PILI, Camarines Sur, Feb. 14 (PNA) -- A top official of the 903rd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army said Tuesday that even if they are on full military operation following termination of the ceasefire agreements between the government and the communist rebels early this month, they are encouraging the New People’s Army to return to the mainstream of society.

Col. Fernando Trinidad, commanding officer of the 903 Infantry Brigade under the 9th Infantry Division (ID) of the Philippine Army based here in Barangay Sagurong, Pili, Camarines Sur, extended the hand of peace to the NPA as he expressed sympathy to the bereaved families of the four still unidentified rebels killed in an encounter in Barangay Pangle, Aroroy, Masbate on Monday morning.

He said even that even if the Army is in full military operation, they encourage the communist guerrillas “to avail of the government’s programs for the NPA surrenderees.”

The clash in Barangay Pangle, which also resulted in the recovery of assorted firearms, including two M14 rifles, two M16 rifles, one M203 grenade launcher and one improvised explosive device, was the second to occur in Aroroy town this month.

On February 6, Cpl. Mark Alfred Repol of the 93rd Division Reconnaisance Company was reported by police authorities in the province as wounded in an encounter at 1:40 p.m. in Barangay Amotag, 21 kilometers away from the poblacion of Aroroy.

In Sorsogon province, however, top police authorities scored gains in the government’s anti-insurgency campaign with the arrest of Emmanuel Alindogan More alias “Ka Cris,” 53.

According to Senior Supt. Ronaldo Cabral, director of the Sorsogon Provincial Police Office (PPO) Alindogogan was nabbed by joint operatives of Sorsogon PPO and 31st Infantry Battalion in Barangay Tughan, Juban at 1:50 p.m. on Sunday.

Cabral alleged that Alindogogan is the secretary and finance officer of Larangan 1 of CPP-NPA-NDF operating in the province, particularly in Sorsogon City, Barcelona, Casiguran, Gubat, and Prieto-Diaz.

On February 8, Nida Barcenas, secretary-general of Karapatan-Bicol, in an interview, said they expect busy days ahead documenting and conducting more fact-finding missions should the fighting between the government’s security forces and the NPA escalate.

She said in a recent fact-finding mission, she described as “intense” the alleged violations committed by the military in the towns of Dimasalang and Cawayan in Masbate.

“The villagers experienced interrogation from the military which made them flee their homes and camp out at the municipal halls for one week,” Barcenas.

She said the fact-finding mission in Masbate was witnessed by Renante Gamara, a consultant of the NDF consultant who attended the first and second round of peace talks between the government and CPP-NDFP panels in the Netherlands and in Rome in the past months.

Barcenas said they were able to hold a dialogue with the local chief executives of Dimasalang and Cawayan before the villagers were allowed to return to their homes.

She said at present, there are 37 political detainees in the Bicol region because of suspicions they are NPA supporters or members of the communist rebel movement.

Barcenas said the 37 were charged in court with criminal offenses ranging from illegal possession of firearms to murder.

President Rodrigo Duterte, who initially promised to release all political detainees before the start of the peace talks last year, recently said he could not release some 400 political detainees because of opposition from the military and police.

Maj. Gen. Manolito Orense, commanding officer of the 9th ID, said the "Spear troopers" will relentlessly go after the NPA to ensure the safety and security of the Bicolanos.

"Every Bicolano is assured of our full commitment in imposing the law against these people continuously committing crimes against the public," Orense added.

The Southern Luzon Command under Lt. Gen. Ferdinand Quibilla, in a statement, said the military favors localized peace talks at the grassroots level and encourages the NPA to stop resorting to violent means by attacking civilians.

President Duterte terminated the government’s ceasefire agreement with the CPP and NPA, its armed wing, on Feb. 3 after the NPA announced lifting of its unilateral ceasefire with the government on Feb. 1. (PNA) LAP/GVR/JH/JME/CBD