2 alleged rebs nabbed in Arakan; farmers demand probe

KIDAPAWAN CITY  (MindaNews/22 October) – Police in North Cotabato are set to file a complaint for  illegal possession of firearms and explosives against two alleged communist guerillas the Army arrested in an encounter in a remote village in Arakan town, Thursday.

Chief Insp. Benjamin Rioflorido, chief of police of Arakan, said complaints would be filed against Noli Badol and Celso Batoy, alleged members of the New Peoples’ Army (NPA) Front 51 operating in the hinterlands of Cotabato and Bukidnon provinces.

But the Arakan Progressive Peasants Organization (APPO), a group of farmers in Arakan town, condemned what it said was an attack on farmers and urged authorities to investigate the incident.

Rioflorido said the suspects were arrested following a 30-minute firefight early Thursday morning in Sitio Upper Lumbo, Barangay Cabalantian, some nine kilometers from the downtown area.

Lt.. Col. Joven Gonzales, commander of the 57th Infantry Battalion, said his men recovered from the site three high-powered firearms – two belonging to Badol and Batoy and the other belonging to the  slain Ramon Batoy, 35, allegedly a member of NPA..

Batoy, according to Gonzales, was shot when he tried to hack one of the soldiers during the encounter.

Gonzales turned over to the Arakan police the suspects, including the firearms and an explosive recovered from them, at around 7 p.m. Thursday. He maintained the firefight Thursday was a legitimate encounter.

“We ordered our men to clear Barangay Cabalantian after we received very reliable information that the NPAs are set to plant landmines in the area. The rebels are also scheduled to conduct training among the villagers.   The operation was legitimate,” said Gonzales.

The Arakan Progressive Peasants Organization (APPO), a group of farmers in Arakan town, condemned the attack and urged authorities to investigate further the incident.

“Wala’y enkwentro nga nahitabo sa erya.  Giatake sa mga sundalo ang erya sa mga mag-uuma, dili sila mga rebelde. (There was no encounter in the area.   The soldiers attacked the farmers.   They are not rebels),” Carlos Anacleto, APPO chair, said.

The APPO quoted Gemma Batoy, wife of slain Ramon, as saying the soldiers attacked her husband while he was preparing to go to their farm.

“The soldiers wanted to search our house.   But my husband won’t permit them because they don’t have a warrant.  Yet they insisted.   So, my husband, using his bolo, hacked one of them.   One of the soldiers, in turn, shot my husband many times,” she said.

Batoy is demanding justice and the immediate pullout of soldiers  in the area. (Malu Cadelina-Manar/MindaNews)