Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Troops occupy NPA camp in Mindanao

DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / June 2, 2009) – Government forces have occupied a mountain encampment of the communist New People’s Army rebels after a firefight Tuesday in the southern Philippines, officials said.

Officials said civilians provided intelligence that led to the capture of the rebel camp in the village of Napnapan in Compostela Valley’s Pantukan town.

Army rangers swooped down on the base and engaged the rebels in a running gun battle, said Captain Rose Maria Cristina Manuel, a spokeswoman for the Army’s 10th Infantry Division.

She said a still undetermined number of rebels were either killed or wounded in the fighting and none of the military side.

“We have recovered one M14 and three more M16 rifles in the camp,” she told the Mindanao Examiner. “The combat operation was in response to the presence of NPA rebels in the area who were extorting money from poor and hapless villagers, including business industries. The operation is still going on.”

The capture of the camp came three days after the NPA raided a mining firm in the village of Masara on Maco town. The rebels seized five automatic rifles from policemen guarding the Apex Mining Corporation.

Prior to the raid, rebels also ambushed a police patrol and killed seven people, said Rigoberto Sanchez, an NPA spokesman.

Last week, NPA fighters also executed a government soldier - Staff Sergeant Rolen Maglangit, of the 36th Infantry Battalion - they captured in Compostela Valley. They also killed a former army soldier, Dante Villa, in Davao del Sur province.

Officials also accused the NPA of killing innocent civilians on mere suspicion of aiding the military in its anti-insurgency campaign. The NPA has recently executed a sister of a top rebel commander after she was discovered working as a spy for the military in Mindanao. It said Evelyn Pitao was killed after she was found guilty by its own court.

The woman was the sister of NPA leader Leoncio Pitao. She and her husband, Roberto Dadula, were killed last week inside their house in Santo Tomas town in Davao del Norte province.

Sanchez said Pitao’s sister was behind the Killing of her brother Danilo Pitao in Tagum City on June 2008 and the arrest of her own husband, Ka Emong, an NPA rebel, in Panabo City on January this year. She was also implicated in the arrest of Leoncio Pitao, alias Kumander Parago, on November 1999.

Pitao was eventually released from jail and returned to fight the government.

Colonel Daniel Lucero, commander of the Army’s Civil-Military Group, said the recent admission of the NPA in the killing of Pitao’s sister is reminiscent of the “Operasyon Kampanyang Ahos” undertaken by the rebels in Mindanao to cleanse its ranks of alleged military infiltrators.

”Evelyn used to be a party member of Guerilla Front 3 of the Southern Mindanao Regional Committee. Paranoia over suspected infiltrators and military spies in their ranks led to the purging operation in the 1980’s early part of 1990's. Until now, those CPP-NPA-NDF perpetrators of these killings remain unpunished. The families, friends and relatives of the victims of these purging operations up to the moment are still seeking for justice,” he said.

“With this admission of the CPP-NPA-NDF on the killing of Evelyn Pitao, we are calling the attention of the KARAPATAN to denounce such unjust and ruthless act of the CPP-NPA-NDF. Indeed, it is indisputable that Evelyn Pitao’s case is in the realm of KARAPATAN’s advocacy. Evelyn Pitao, though a member of the CPP-NPA-NDF, had basic right to life, humane treatment, and due process.”

Lucero was referring to the human rights group KARAPATAN which has accused the military of violating the rights of civilians in Mindanao.

The NPA is the armed wing of the outlawed Communist Party of the Philippines, which has been waging a secessionist war in the country. Peace talks between Manila and the CPP-NPA collapsed in 2004 after both sides failed to sign an agreement to end more than four decades of bloody fighting. (Mindanao Examiner)

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