VM Duterte’s disappointment on arrest of NPA: ‘twas a question of principle’

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/16 January) –  His disappointment over the arrest of an alleged New People Army (NPA) leader on New Year’s Day was “nothing personal” but “a question of principle,” Vice Mayor Rodrigo Duterte said.

“It’s a question of principle because we are all in government,” said Duterte in his weekly television program,Gikan sa Masa para sa Masa (From the masses to the Masses).

Duterte said  the arrest of the ailing Edwin Brigano, 53, at dawn of News Year’s day was “not good in my eyes and in my book”.

The operatives of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) and 4th Special Action Batallion arrested Brigano, an alleged ranking guerilla front commander in the region, based on a warrant of arrest issued by Judge Patricio Balite of the Regional Trial Court Branch 6 in Prosperidad, Agusan del Sur for double frustrated homicide and robbery with homicide three days before the end of the 19-day holiday truce.

Supt. Querubin Manalang, Police Regional Office spokesperson claimed the arrest of Brigano was not a violation of the ceasefire “but because he has standing arrest warrants.”

In Camp Crame, Chief Superintendent Agrimero Cruz, Jr., spokesperson of the Philippine National Police said Brigano’s arrest at a relative’s house did not violate any provisions of the ceasefire.

Duterte blamed PRO-XI chief Senior Supt. Pedro Tango for the arrest of the rebel, saying it would have an effect of derailing the talks scheduled in February. The government and National Democratic Front (NDF) peace panels, however, are already holding informal talks in Oslo from January 14 to 18, in preparation for next month’s formal talks.

Duterte said Brigano’s arrest ”was done in bad faith.”

”Why can’t they wait for the truce to end?” asked Duterte who called for the relief of Tango.

Tango had explained to reporters he had nothing to do with the arrest carried out by the CIDG and the PNP 4th Special Action Battalion, which are both beyond his jurisdiction.

Tango wants to talk with Duterte but the vice mayor said “no need.”

“That’s over,” said Duterte. “There is nothing to talk about,” adding the arrest “destroyed the fine line of trust and confidence that the civilian government has tried to develop for years.”

Duterte, who served as city mayor for 19 years (1988 to 1998; 2001 to 2010) expressed concern that the arrest of Brigano could  jeopardize what he said was a long standing agreement with communist rebels to keep the killings out of Davao as long as the city can guarantee their safety.

He also warned  he would no longer get himself involved in any negotiation for the release of any police and military officer abducted by the NPA.

The vice mayor has been instrumental in the past for the release of several police and military captured by the rebels.

Before Christmas, the vice mayor and his daughter, Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, publicly invited NPA rebels to come down from the countryside and spend the holidays with their families. (Rico Biliran/MindaNews)