KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews/24 April) — The Herminio Alfonso Command Front 53 of the New Peoples’ Army (NPA) operating in the hinterlands of North Cotabato and Bukidnon provinces announced in a press statement that they have been holding captive two intelligence officers of the Army’s 57th Infantry Battalion since April 14.
Front 53 spokeserson Isabel Santiago, in an April 18 statement e-mailed to media on April 24, identified the captives as Cpl. Delfin Largo Sarocam and Pfc. Jayson Burgos Valenzuela, both members of the 57th IB operating in the towns of President Roxas, Magpet, Antipas, and Arakan, all in North Cotabato.
The two were held by NPA guerrillas in Sitio Dalinding, Barangay Datu Inda in President Roxas town, North Cotabato. Two .45 cal. pistols were confiscated from them.
Initial reports from the Philippine National Police in President Roxas said Sarocam and Valenzuela were abducted by more or less 20 armed men while the victims were on their way to Sitio Dalinding, Barangay Datu Puas Inda, a Lumad-dominated village.
Lt. Manuel Gatus, chief of the civil-military operations of the 57th IB, said the soldiers were set to conduct consultation-dialogue, as part of their peace-building initiatives in the village, when they were waylaid and brought to an NPA camp somewhere in Bukidnon.
Sarocam and Valenzuela are undergoing investigations “for serious violations they may have committed against the people and the revolution in the course of implementing the regime’s vicious counterrevolutionary war,” Santiago said.
Santiago assured relatives of the captives that that they would fully respect the rights of Sarocam and Valenzuela “in accordance with the war protocols and the Comprehensive Agreement for the Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.”
“Sarocam and Valenzuela are part of the AFP’s special operations team unleashed in North Cotabato implementing the US-Aquino counter-revolutionary plan ‘Bayanihan.’ Operating under the cover of ‘peace and development’ activities, Sarocam and Valenzuela conducted intelligence operations particularly verifying the presence of red fighters in Barangay Datu Inda when they were arrested,” Santiago said.
He said the special operations of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) are aimed at intimidating and harassing local residents by forcing them to join the Barangay Defense System , a counter-revolutionary measure being implemented by the Army in rebel-infested areas, including North Cotabato in Southwestern Mindanao and Bukidnon in Northern Mindanao.
Relatives of the captives had earlier appealed to the NPA to free them.
I believe my husband was just doing his job. He is a good person and a good provider to his family,” said Jean, Sarocam’s wife.
Before this present assignment, Sarocam served as a member of the AFP’s peace contingent in a troubled country in Africa for at least six months.
Valenzuela, according to his mother Gina, is helping her send her other children to school.
“We don’t know where to get money for the enrolment of my other children. June is fast approaching. We depend much on my son Jayson,” she said. (Malu Cadelina-Manar/MindaNews)