DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Apr. 24, 2011) – Philippine communist rebels on Sunday said they are holding two government soldiers in the restive region of Mindanao where security forces are battling the Maoist group New People’s Army.
Isabel Santiago, a spokesperson for the NPA’s Herminio Alfonso Command, said the two soldiers - Corporal Delfin Largo Sarocam and Private First Class Jayson Burgos Valenzuela – were captured on April 14 in the village of Datu Inda in North Cotabato’s President Roxas town.
The soldiers are members of the 57th Infantry Battalion who part of thousands of troops sent to fight the NPA. “The NPA declares them as prisoners of war,” Santiago said.
But the military said the two soldiers are part of a team of peace and development groups involved in community works.
Santiago said the prisoners are members of the military’s special operations team involved in counterinsurgency missions in the province.
“Operating under the cover of peace and development activities, Sarocam and Valenzuela conducted intelligence operations, particularly verifying the presence of Red fighters in the village.”
“The Armed Forces of the Philippines’ special operations in North Cotabato are aimed in intimidating and harassing local residents, in the process affecting their livelihood. Under the anti-people 'Bayanihan' and similar to ‘Oplan Bantay Laya,’ local residents are forced to join the AFP-enforced Barangay Defense System amid rampant harassment and extra-judicial killings against civilians among other rights violations and crimes against humanity,” Santiago said.
Bayanihan is a term used by the military to refer to the government’s anti-insurgency campaign.
“The two soldiers are being investigated by the rebels for serious violations they may have committed against the people and the revolution in the course of implementing the regime's vicious counterrevolutionary war,” Santiago said.
The rebels assured the rights of the prisoners are being respected in accordance with the war protocols and the Comprehensive Agreement for the Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.
The NPA also accused the police of arresting two innocent civilians – Toto Ancahas and Gerald Robles – in Davao Del Norte’s Panabo City last week on suspicion they were NPA members.
The duo was allegedly tortured and then paraded to the public as NPA rebels. The NPA is fighting for decades for the establishment of a Maoist state in the country. (Mindanao Examiner)