DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Jan. 6, 2011) – Communist rebels ambushed government troops on Thursday and killed three infantrymen in the troubled southern Philippine region of Mindanao, officials said.
Officials said the soldiers were on their way to a community development mission when New People’s Army rebels attacked them killing the trio instantly in the village of Magdum in Tagum City in Davao del Norte province. The military condemned the killings.
“We strongly condemned the killings. They murdered three of our soldiers that were involved in peace and development outreach programs. This is a murder case committed by the New People’s Army against our soldiers,” said Lieutenant Colonel Medel Aguilar, a spokesman for the 10th Infantry Division.
Aguilar said the military’s peace and development efforts in Mindanao will continue despite the attack.
“The peace saboteurs may have the intention to divert our attention away from community works because these activities enable us to win the support of the people. They want us to shift from our humanitarian works to combat operations, but they will fail because we will continue with our peace and development outreach program. This will lead us to the peaceful settlement of the insurgency problem,” he said.
The attack occurred barely three days after rebels and soldiers ended their 19-day Christmas truce ahead of a planned peace talks between Manila and the communist secessionist group.
The ambush coincided with rebel demands to free two captured senior communist leaders Edwin Brigano and Tirso Alcantara. Both had been captured in separate military and police operations in Mindanao and Luzon Islands.
Police commandos captured New People’s Army leader Edwin Brigano during a raid at his hideout in Davao City’s Toril district, said rebel spokesman Rigoberto Sanchez. He said Brigano’s arrest could imperil the peace talks.
“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 rebels said Alcantara, alias Ka Bart, who was wounded and captured following a gun battle with troops in Lucena City, is a member of the peace panel and that his arrest was a violation of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees.
"The revolutionary movement demands respect for the rights and humane treatment of Ka Bart," the Communist Party of the Philippines said. “We demand that his lawyers and doctors be given immediate access to Ka Bart in order to assist him in his legal and health care needs."
"We hope the upcoming resumption soon of formal peace negotiations will not be stalled by the further holding in custody of Ka Bart, who is covered by the JASIG," it added.
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)