Friday, July 16, 2010

NPA rebels free arrested militia, but held on to captured army soldier in Mindanao

DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / July 16, 2010) – Philippine Maoist rebels freed Friday a government militia they captured last month in Compostela Valley province in Mindanao.

The militia, Juve Latiban, was arrested at a rebel checkpoint on June 19 along with an army soldier, Sergeant Bienvenido Arguelles, in the village of Upper Ulip in Monkayo town. The fate of the soldier is still unknown.

The rebels, who belong to the New People’s Army, said Latiban was only 17 years old when recruited by the military to fight insurgents.

“Juve Latiban, the minor recruited as combatant by the 10th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army, was turned over by the Conrado Heredia Command of the New People’s Army to his family. In line with the international rules of war, specifically because of his age of minority, the New People’s Army did not consider him a prisoner of war,” said Rigoberto Sanchez, a rebel spokesman.

Sanchez accused the 10th Infantry Division of recruiting and arming minors as “combat pawns” in its war against the New People’s Army. He said Latiban was one of 18 minors recruited by the military in 2008 as members of the Civilian Auxiliary Force Geographical Unit.

“By facilitating his return to his family, the New People’s Army corrects the serious and long running misconduct and violation of international humanitarian law committed by the 10th Infantry Division pertaining to the recruitment of minors for AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) combat duties. While the AFP, by deliberate and deceitful design, made a combatant out of Juve Latiban and 18 other minors from a single batch of CAFGU in 2008 alone, the NPA made concrete steps to allow him to revert to civilian status,” Sanchez said.

He said Latiban, identified by the military as Job, was recruited in October 2008 by Private First Class Alvin Latiban in Monkayo town in Compostela Valley.

“Together with his batch mates that included 18 other minors, they underwent 45-day training at the 1001st Infantry Brigade headquarters in Tuburan (village) in Mawab town in Compostela Valley,” Sanchez said, quoting from information provided by the arrested militia.

Sanchez said the militia also told the NPA that they were provided fake birth certificates which stated they were already 18 years old when recruited by the military as militias.

Army Captain Emmanuel Garcia, a spokesman for the 10th Infantry Division, denied the accusations of the New People’s Army which is fighting for decades now for the establishment of a Maoist state in the country. (Mindanao Examiner)

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