NPA frees 3 soldiers, militiaman

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/15 June) — The New People’s Army freed at  3 p.m. Tuesday in Maco, Compostela Valley the three soldiers and a militiaman it held captive for 34 days.

The Merardo Arce Command-Southern Mindanao Regional Operations Command-New People’s Army (MAC-NPA) ordered the release of Army corporals Marcial B. Bawagan, Ariel P. Asumo and Eduardo Alcala and Civilian Auxiliary member Victor Pitogo “on humanitarian grounds,” allegedly despite the finding of probable cause “for various acts constituting serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law,” Anvil Guinto, spokesperson of the Crucifino Umballas Command of the New People’s Army-Southern Mindanao, said in statement.

The Army’s 10th Infantry Division in a statement issued by spokesperson Capt. Emmanuel Garcia, welcomed the  “newly acquired freedom” of the four “from the hands of kidnappers.”

Earlier reports said the four were seized at gunpoint while attending a birthday party in Bawagan’s house on May 12. They were allegedly forced inside a black van that later fled towards the direction of Barangay Sangab, military reports said.

The NPA acknowledged the third party facilitators from the church sector, Local Government Units, peace and human rights advocates and concerned individuals “for working on the safe and orderly release of the four prisoners of war” but criticized 10th Infantry Division commander Maj. Gen. Carlos Holganza’s “pathetic attempt to pressure” Tagum Bishop Wilfredo Manlapaz Monday night “clearly shows the 10th ID-AFP’s resistance to the efforts of the NPA and the religious, peace and human rights advocates, GRP local officials, among others, to undertake this release safely and orderly.”

Guinto said Holganza “might as well be called Gen. ‘Hulga’ (threat) with his sugar-coated threats to the Bishop and opposition to the efforts for a safe release.”

Guinto said the “massive combat and ‘rescue’ operations are face-saving measures that have utterly failed,  leaving his officers in the 10th ID-AFP downright frustrated.”

“The breadth and depth of the Guerilla Front 2 territories, the revolutionary mass base and the NPA’s tactical offensives have dealt the fascist enemy another blow.  Maj. Gen. Holganza and his rotten regime should expect more NPA tactical offensives, arrests and punitive actions and precision strike operations along with the surging revolutionary armed resistance of the peasants, lumads and other oppressed and exploited classes,” Guinto said.

“The 10ID leadership takes cognizance of the valuable efforts of various sectors particularly the Parish of Mawab and other religious leaders, the teachers from the Department of Education, the civilian community and many others who have given their support to the families of the victims and condemned the inhuman acts of the communists,” it said.

Compostela Valley now hosts the biggest number of NPA nationwide and military operations have been continuing here since President Arroyo vowed to end the communist insurgency when she steps down as President.

“As a matter of procedure, the victims will be taken to the hospital for appropriate medical examinations and afterwards will undergo custodial debriefing to find out the circumstances of the kidnapping. Their families will also undertake psychological and emotional counselling to assess the extent of trauma caused by the kidnappers’ criminal acts,” the 10th ID’s press statement read.

“As we vow to make these criminals face the bar of justice, we take pride in the unparalleled heroism of our troops who risked their lives in order to rescue beleaguered comrades. Our warmest salute to every soldier who contributed in the rescue efforts and bringing pressure to kidnappers,” the statement read. (MindaNews)