GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/17 December) — The Valentin Palamine Command of the New People’s Army (NPA) operating in Southwestern Mindanao said the alleged rebel leader and four of his companions that were arrested Thursday in Malapatan, Sarangani were not members of the rebel group.
In a statement signed by rebel spokesman Ka Dencio Madrigal, the NPA-Far South Mindanao Regional command claimed Toning Mungkil and four others “never joined any unit of the New People’s Army and have never been members of the underground revolutionary movement.”
“They are plain barrio folks whose misfortune is that they happen to live in the RSOT area of the 73rd IB,” the rebel statement further said.
The 10th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army earlier claimed Mungkil and his companions were wanted for cattle rustling and frustrated murder charges but later reportedly joined the NPA.
The military said the communists rebels in Sarangani have been seriously weakened by intensified military operations in the area and are now surrendering to the government.
But Madrigal said they are hoping the “false claims…are not undue provocations…to derail and sabotage the ongoing ceasefire.”
Both the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front (NDF) have agreed to a mutual ceasefire that began dawn of December 16 and will last midnight of January 3.
Brig. Gen. Rainer Cruz, commanding general of the 1002nd Brigade, however said Mungkil allegedly confessed to being used by the rebels as sniper.
Meanwhile, Cruz said the Christmas truce appears to be holding in his area of responsibility.
“So far, we have not monitored any violation,” he said.
He said he already positioned his men in strategic locations and have been scouring the mountains for six months thereby reducing the combat capability and presence of the communist rebels in his area of command.
The 1002nd Brigade covers the whole of South Cotabato and Sarangani, portions of North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Davao del Sur. (Edwin G. Espejo writes for www.asiancorrespondent.com)