5 cops abducted by NPA not prisoners of war, says Davao Region’s top cop

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 20 Apr) – The five police officers who were reportedly abducted by the New People’s Army (NPA) last Saturday in Paquibato District in this city are not prisoners of war (POW), according to the region’s highest ranking police officer, Chief Supt. Manuel Gaerlan.

This after a certain Rigoberto Sanchez, who claimed to be the spokesperson of the NPA Regional Operations Command-Southern Mindanao Region, admitted that the group’s 1st Pulang Bagani Command was behind the abduction and held the five officers as captives for being prisoners of war.

During a joint AFP-PNP press conference at the Task Force Davao headquarters Wednesday, Gaerlan maintained that the abductees were only responding to the community upon receiving report from the residents that a civilian was hurt in a clash between government forces and a “lawless armed group” around 7 a.m. on Saturday.

Chief Insp. Leonardo V. Tarongoy, the station commander of Paquibato Police Station, PO3 Rosenie L. Cabuenas, PO3 Rudolf Pacete, PO3 Abdul Azis A. Ali Jr. and PO2 Neil C. Arellano, and civilian driver Ronald Dordas were on board their patrol vehicle en route to Brgy. Salapawan when they were flagged down in Brgy. Mapula.

Gaerlan maintained that the captives were only performing their regular functions and were armed only with handguns.

In a press statement, Capt. Rhyan B. Batchar, chief of the 10 Infantry Division’s Public Affairs Office, said that 60 members of an “armed lawless group” attacked a detachment at Sitio Quiman-anao, Brgy. Salapawan, Paquibato District.

Injured were Mario Carliaman, member of the CAFGU Active Auxiliary, and Randy Ramirez, a civilian who was shot on his right shoulder while gathering firewood.

The CAFGUs reportedly retaliated but immediately escaped when the attackers, who carted away 19 assorted high-powered firearms, burned the detachment.

Last Monday, soldiers of the 84th Infantry Battalion engaged in two encounters NPA guerillas at Sitio Banban, Brgy. Lumiad, Paquibato District.

Batchar said they were the same group who attacked the Quiman-anao Detachment in Brgy. Salapawan last Friday.

The clash killed two from each side and left another two soldiers wounded.

Chief Supt. Wilben M. Mayor, spokesperson of the Philippine National Police (PNP), said in a statement issued Wednesday that they condemned the attacks against the law enforcers, saying that the police officers are civilians and not even members of the military.

“The Philippines is not at war, there is no declaration of war, nor is there any existence of conditions of war. Therefore, their continued detention is illegal under existing Philippine or any international laws. The Police Officers are civilians and not military personnel or combatants,” he said.

Gaerlan added that a Special Investigation Task Group (SITG), headed by Davao City Police Office (DCPO) director Vicente Danao, is gathering information that will lead to the location of the rebel group and their abductees.

But he suspected that they are still in Paquibato area as police have set up new checkpoints and strengthened the existing ones going to and from the area to prevent the rebel group from transporting the five abducted policemen to another place.

Gaerlan said they already alerted police authorities in Northern Mindanao and Caraga regions to keep watch of suspected rebels entering their areas of responsibility.

He called on the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to do its investigation as they received reports that his men were tied or handcuffed to makeshift animal cages under subhuman conditions.