Friday, April 16, 2010

NPA rebels free abducted mayoralty candidate in Southern Philippines

DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / April 16, 2010) – Communist insurgents freed an abducted mayoralty candidate in the southern Philippines on humanitarian grounds, a rebel spokesman said Friday.

Military authorities said New People’s Army rebels last week seized former Lupon town mayor Arfran Quinones who is running as an independent candidate for the May 10 national polls. It said Quinones was abducted along with his aide, Ronisito Pedro, an ex-village official, while they were campaigning together with eight other supporters in Marayag village in Davao Oriental’s Lupon town.

The rebels said Quinones was seized on graft and murder charges, among others, and for campaigning without permission from the New People’s Army. The former mayor was supposed to be tried for his crimes, but the rebel group released him to due to his fragile health conditions.

“It is however in the interest of humanitarian considerations that Quinones was granted temporary liberty due to his fragile health conditions as ordered by the revolutionary People's Court.”

“Despotic candidates like Quinones are also well-advised to heed the regulations and policies under the People's Democratic Government, including those that govern the conduct of their electoral campaign inside the guerilla territories. Arms, armed bodyguards and unfair campaigning to spread hostile acts inside the guerilla areas are absolutely not permitted. They are expected to seek first the revolutionary government's imprimatur before campaigning inside the base areas of the People's Democratic Government,” said Rafael dela Cruz, a spokesman for the Wilfredo Zapanta Command of the New People’s Army.

He said Quinones was freed this week in the remote village of Calapagan also in Lupon town. It was unknown whether Quinones’ aide was freed or not.

The New People’s Army accused the politician of masterminding the murder of Oscar Fernandez, a known critic of Quinones, who was killed in June 2001; Maximu Tanzo, the town’s municipal treasurer who exposed the corruption anomalies of Quinones during his earlier reign as mayor in Lupon. Tanzo was killed February 2002; and Lucio Angco, the former mayor’s political rival. He was murdered in March 2008.

The rebel group also accused Quinones of excessive use of force and intimidation against the masses in Davao Oriental province and for allegedly maintaining a private army and caches of high-powered firearms which he used to intimidate the people in Lupon.

“Quinones was actively engaged in counter-revolutionary acts. He and his armed group directly participated in armed confrontations with the Red fighters in two incidents in 2001 and 2004. The victims of Quinones, the masses in Lupon, and the numerous witnesses that came out are seeking justice for the crimes the despotic Quinones has committed against the people,” said Dela Cruz.

The allegations against Quinones cannot be immediately confirmed, but the New People’s Army has previously abducted government officials accused of crimes in the southern Philippines and tried by its own court. Those who were found guilty by the New People’s Army were usually executed by musketry.

Last month, two political campaigners of House Speaker Prospero Nograles, who is running for mayor in Davao City, were briefly held by rebels after they failed to pay protection money. The military said the NPA is also campaigning for some candidates and party list groups with links to the Communist Party of the Philippines. (Mindanao Examiner)

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