Child combatant yields to authorities in NoCot

MAGPET, North Cotabato (MindaNews/12 Aug) – A 13-year-old boy has voluntarily surrendered to a village chair in this town after his life was allegedly threatened by one of the leaders of the Black Fighters, said to be a breakaway group of the New Peoples’ Army (NPA) operating in the province.

Maximo (not his real name) was sighted by Barangay Mahongkog chairman Godfrey Acupan minutes after an armed confrontation between a group of soldiers belonging to the Bravo Company of the 57th Infantry Battalion and members of the Black Fighters took place at Sitio Tulay 1:50 p.m. Tuesday.

The soldiers, according to Acupan, proceeded to the area after villagers reported the presence of the Black Fighters.

The boy was seen in the company of the breakaway group.

After the exchange of fires that lasted for 45 minutes, members of the Black Fighters fled to different exit routes. They reportedly carried two of their wounded members but abandoned the boy.

Sensing he has no one to turn to, Maximo, who was interviewed at the police station in Magpet who has taken care of his custody, voluntarily surrendered to Acupan who was also at the encounter site.

He told the village chair he could no longer take the beatings of a certain Rex Ansabo, who allegedly was among the 40 inmates that escaped from the Amas Provincial Jail here in February 2007, considered the bloodiest jail break in North Cotabato province since 2000.

Rex Ansabo is the youngest brother of Ibon Ansabo, who Maximo said heads the Black Fighters.

After Rex escaped from prison, he joined his brothers Samante and Ibon in organizing the Black Fighters, whose members were former NPA rebels operating in Magpet town.

The boy told Acupan, police, and Army that he witnessed the killing of a certain Jimmy Kelario at Sitio Natayukan, also in Barangay Mahongkog, and carted away the victim’s 12-gauge shotgun.

Kelario was shot while sleeping inside his hut around 9 p.m. last August 5.

The Black Fighters Group, according to Lt. Ernesto Aguilar, commanding officer of 57IB’s Bravo Company, has a strong fire power. Their members have numbered to 20 and their firearms include three M14, three M16 and two Carbine rifles and a 12-gauge shotgun.

Acupan said the group is engaged in cattle rustling, theft and robbery, killing of innocent farmers, and harassment of civilians in Barangay Mahongkog.

Aguilar hinted the Black Fighters want to drive the villagers away so the rebels could get the land, which they claimed is part of their ancestral domain.

The Ansabo brothers of the Black Fighters are members of the Bagobo tribe.

Insp. Glenn Alegado, chief of the Magpet municipal police station, said the Black Fighters are now the subject of their manhunt operations.

Alegado, who is now looking after Maximo’s welfare and safety, said he would turnover the boy to the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office in Amas Complex, this city. (Malu Cadeliña Manar / MindaNews)