GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 30 Apr) – South Cotabato officials are eyeing the involvement of New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in the disappearance earlier this month of an Army trooper in T’boli town.
South Cotabato Gov. Daisy Avance-Fuentes said Thursday they received information that Private First Class (Pfc.) Kenneth Subere, who has been missing since April 12, is being held by an NPA unit “somewhere in T’boli.”
The 26-year-old Subere, who is assigned at a base of the Army’s 27th Infantry Battalion in Kiamba town in Sarangani, hails from the province and is a cousin of South Cotabato board member Ellen Grace Subere-Albios.
The governor said Subere went missing last April 12 after visiting his relatives in Sitio Tabudtud, Barangay New Dumangas in T’boli.
She said the trooper was last seen by his relatives taking a motorcycle-for-hire en route to the town proper around 2 p.m.
The governor said Subere managed to make a call three hours later to a fellow trooper but his voice was quite scratchy and oddly instructed the latter to clear his belongings as he will no longer be returning to their unit.
Fuentes said Subere’s unit lost contact with him after the call while his family has since failed to establish any connection to his cellphone.
After failing to return to his assigned base in Sarangani, the governor said 27IB officials declared Subere to have gone “absent without official leave” or AWOL.
Worried with his status, Subere’s family, led by board member Subere-Albios, later sought the governor’s assistance.
“Based on our verification with the military, T’boli officials and some people in the underground movement, he (Pfc. Subere) did not go on AWOL but is in the custody of the NPA. We are quite certain with that,” she said in a press conference.
The governor said her office received reports that local sympathizers of Sitio Tabudtud in New Dumangas, which she described as a known mass base of the NPA, facilitated Subere’s abduction.
But Fuentes said they were baffled with Subere’s situation as the NPA has not made any confirmation or issued formal statements about the abduction.
She said they earlier sent feelers to local NPA leaders regarding Subere’s fate but there has been no reply yet.
“This is an unusual case because the (NPA) normally acknowledge and issue prompt statements about these incidents as we saw in other cases,” she said.
Fuentes appealed to the rebels to shed light on the matter, especially on the actual condition of Subere.
“We want to know his present condition and why he is being held. We want clear and concrete information about these,” she said.
Citing Subere’s background, the governor said he was just an ordinary enlisted trooper and had not been involved in any intelligence activity.
She said Subere, who enlisted with the Army only two years ago, had been assigned with the 27IB’s community peace and development team.
“He is a jolly person and was good with the people. So there’s no reason for the NPA to hold him,” she said.
Subere’s mother, Lucy, urged NPA leaders to release his son, whom she described as the family’s breadwinner.
“I’m appealing to those holding my son to immediately release him. Please bring him back to us,” she said.