Tuesday, May 18, 2010

NPA rebels free abducted mayor, 4 others in South RP

DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / May 18, 2010) – Communist rebels have freed an abducted southern Filipino town mayor and four soldiers and policemen after more than a week in captivity, security officials said Tuesday.

Officials said New People’s Army rebels on Tuesday released Mayor Roberto Luna of Lingig town, including two government soldiers Private First Class John Rey Abao and Arnel Dizon, and two policemen Police Officer 2 Boy de Castro, P03 Alan Dapitanon in the village of Bogac also in Lingig town.

The hostages were handed over to the group of Surigao del Sur Governor Johnny Pimentel, who was there to ensure the safe release of the five men.

The release of the hostages came about after reports said that some P3 million in ransoms were paid to the rebels. And the military is verifying the reports whether they were true or not. “We are trying to validate these media reports that ransoms were paid to the NPA,” said Captain Emmanuel Garcia, a spokesman for the Army’s 10th Infantry Division.

But the NPA said the mayor was freed after he apologized for various criminal charges against him by the rebel group.

“The People's Democratic Government in Guerilla Front 20 has ordered the release of detainee current Lingig mayor Roberto Luna Jr on account of his voluntary admission of culpability and issuance of a public apology in relation to the various crimes for which he stands accused of in the revolutionary People's Court.”

“The Merardo Arce Command-New People's Army has likewise directed the Camp for the Administration of Detainees of the Conrado Heredia Command-NPA to release the four Prisoners of War who are AFP/PNP elements,” said Roel Agustin, a rebel spokesman.

He said Luna and his aides were freed on humanitarian grounds after their families and other groups appealed to the NPA for their safe release.

Agustin said the politician allegedly admitted maintaining a large private armed group consisting of soldiers and policemen and hired goons. “He employed this private armed group in furtherance of his political and economic interests and in the process violated the human rights of the masses,” he said.

The NPA earlier accused Luna of allegedly being involved in the murders of former Lingig town mayor Amerosin Onsing in 2001, and the Suazo brothers in the village of Union in 2007.

Luna was also accused of grabbing 30 hectares of farm lands owned by peasants in the village of Pagbacatan and in Dahican Island and was engaged in destructive logging. He was also charged by the NPA of human rights violations and embezzlement of “people's money.”

“Despite Luna's release from detention, the legal and judicial procedures in connection with these cases will continue; only his custodial detention is terminated. As for the four POWs, the investigation shall be suspended.”

“The NPA and the revolutionary masses enjoin Luna to desist from doing acts inimical to the interest of the people, particularly peasants and Lumad tribesmen, respect their political, economic, social and other human rights and make amends to those whom he had done injustice to,” the rebel spokesman said.

The allegations cannot be independently confirmed, but the mayor and his group was seized by rebels May 5 near the boundary of Agusan del Sur and Compostela Valley provinces. Rebel forces also confiscated from Luna’s group five M16 automatic rifles, two .45-caliber pistols and one 9mm automatic pistol, including one .380-caliber pistol.

The military said Luna was on his way to visit his sick child in Davao City when some 30 rebels blockaded a highway and flagged down the politician’s car and seized him and his aides.

NPA rebels last month also abducted former Lupon town mayor Arfran Quinones, who was seeking re-election, and his aide in the village of Marayag in Davao Oriental province.

Two followers of a House Speaker Prospero Nograles were abducted in Davao City in March after the solon failed to pay extortion money. And five of his supporters were also held this month in Davao City for failing to pay protection money.

The NPA, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, is waging a secessionist war for the past four decades now. (Mindanao Examiner)

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