DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Jan. 3, 2011) – The Philippine Army on Monday denied holding a top communist rebel leader who was captured by the police in Mindanao.
Police commandos captured New People’s Army leader Edwin Brigano during a weekend raid at his hideout in Davao City’s Toril district. A rebel spokesman Rigoberto Sanchez said Brigano was later handed over by the police to the military where he is being interrogated.
Police said the 53-year old rebel leader is facing a string of criminal charges. The New People’s Army condemned the arrest and accused the police of violating a government truce. It said Brigano’s arrest could imperil the peace talks.
“Comrade Edwin's arrest is a blatant display of treachery. It brazenly violated the self-declared ceasefire of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines - an act that could only imperil the GRP-National Democratic Front of the Philippines peace initiatives. The trumped up robbery with homicide charges immediately slapped against Comrade Edwin are lame attempts to justify his illegal arrest that clearly violated the mutual and simultaneous 19-day holiday truce,” said Rigoberto Sanchez.
He said the rebel leader is being held by the Army’s 10th Infantry Division in Davao City.
But Lieutenant Colonel Medel Aguilar, a spokesman for the 10th Infantry Division, strongly denied the allegation, saying, Brigano was never turned over to them by the police.
“Brigano was never turned over to us. The reason they (rebels) are saying that (Brigano is in our custody) is for the people to believe that we violated the cease-fire when he was arrested by the Philippine National Police for various crimes he committed,” Aguilar told the Mindanao Examiner.
Brigano was captured ahead of a planned peace talks between government and rebel peace negotiators aimed at ending decades of bloody insurgency in the country.
Sanchez said Brigano is sick and suffering from serious respiratory illness, hepatitis and could hardly walk when police forces arrested him.
“The New People's Army demands that Comrade Edwin be immediately released. His treacherous arrest and incarceration only highlighted the non-compliance of the regime's fascist machinery to its own ceasefire declaration,” Sanchez said.
The New People’s Army is the armed wing of the underground Communist Party of the Philippines which is waging secessionist war for decades now. President Benigno Aquino said he would resume peace talks with the rebels in an effort to put an end to communist insurgency in the country.
Peace talks collapsed in 2004 after rebels accused then President Gloria Arroyo of reneging on several agreements, among them the release of all political prisoners in the country. (Mindanao Examiner)