Front refutes military claim on dead ‘rebels’

KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews/ 5 October) – The National Democratic Front – Far South Mindanao Region (NDF-FSMR) vehemently denied that those killed in a recent military operation in Columbio, Sultan Kudarat province were New People’s Army (NPA) rebels.

In a statement issued Friday, Ka Efren, NDF-FSMR spokesperson, said the two individuals who died during the September 29 attack in Barangay Telafas in Columbio were “ordinary peasants who are not members of their group.”

This, Ka Efren said, was contrary to the claims made by Lt. Col. Alexis Noel Bravo, commander of the Army’s 27th Infantry Battalion. Bravo, in media interviews, said they recovered from the encounter site two NPA members.

Killed during the raid, according to Ka Efren, were Andy Datuwata, 24, a farmer, and Ronald Malley, 16, freshman at the Barangay Telafas National High School.

The military had also apprehended Tata Malley, 22, farmer, who was later turned over to Columbio PNP.

They reportedly belong to the Teduray tribe.

Ka Efren said the statement made by Bravo was done to conceal their alleged “ruthless act” towards the civilians.

The rebel spokesperson also denied that what happened last September 29 was a legitimate encounter.

“Past three o’clock at dawn, the patrolling Army indiscriminately strafed the farm shack where the victims are sleeping,” Ka Efren said.

Also, the NDF-FSMR denied the claims of the Army that the recovered rifles were proof that the victims were communist guerrillas.

“But it has long been known in Columbio town that possessing firearms is common among the locals for their defense.  Keeping arms is a traditional practice of the lumads,” Ka Efren said.

The families of the Malley and Datuwata and Teduray folk occupy the area at Sitio Sinalkuha, Barangay Telafas, where the alleged encounter happened, the NDF-FSMR said. (Malu Cadelina Manar/ MindaNews)