MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – One of the communists released last year for the peace talks is currently being held in Davao City in an apparent implementation of President Rodrigo Duterte’s order to put them back in jail.
Ariel Abitrario, who was released in 2016, and companion Roderick Manuyac were taken at a checkpoint Monday morning, February 6, by personnel of Task Force Davao.
They are now under the custody of local police, according to Captain Rhyan Batchar, spokesman of the 10th Infantry Division.
Duterte declared he is scrapping the peace talks and ordered the arrest of the communists released months ago. Talks collapsed after the New People’s Army (NPA) withdrew its unilateral ceasefire, citing military abuses and delayed release of political prisoners. (READ: Who’s who: Political prisoners released for Oslo talks)
But the National Democratic Front (NDF) representing the rebels in the talks said they cannot be arrested yet.
Tagged by the military as secretary of the NPA’s Guerrilla Front 2, Arbitrario was arrested in February 2016 for alleged involvement in NPA-initiated incidents and killings in Compostella Valley.
He was released on bail on August 18, 2016, to serve as consultant to the NDF.
Clashes between the military and the NPA were also reported in various areas nationwide: Sorsogon and Occidental Mindoro in Luzon, Iloilo in the Visayas, and various parts of Mindanao.
Two soldiers – Corporal Jerome Tu and Private First Class Mart Maximo Odsinada – were reported wounded in a broad daylight clash in Casiguran town in Sorsogon on Monday morning. It was the first firefight in Bicol region after the unilateral ceasefires were terminated.
Lieutenant General Ferdinand Quidilla, commander of the military’s Southern Luzon Command, said they will resume military offensive against the rebels.
“We will hit them hard. Military offensive operations will continue to wipe out NPA in the Southern Tagalog and Bicol Region,” said Quidilla, echoing pronouncements by AFP chief General Eduardo Año.
According to the military, there are 217 NPA combatants in at least 312 barangays all over Bicol region. Most of the clashes occur in the provinces of Sorsogon, Camarines Sur, and Masbate.
In Occidental Mindoro, the military reported killing an NPA rebel in a clash in Sitio Kalibun-libunan, Barangay Pinagturilan, in the town of Sta Cruz. No casualties were reported.
In the Visayas, the military reported a 20-minute encounter in Barangay Cabatangan in Lambunao, Iloilo. The troops were deployed to confirm the presence of NPA rebels in the area. Pursuit operations are ongoing.
In Mindanao, several incidents were reported in various areas including the arrest of ranking NPA officers.
Major General Rafael Valencia, commander of the military’s 10th Infantry Division, said rebels burned on Sunday, February 5, a banana packing plant owned by Dole Stanfilco in Pantukan, Compostela Valley. The military has secured the Dole hangar and main processing plant.
In Ozamis City in Misamis Occidental, ranking NPA commanders Lito Elmidolan and wife Maria Bella Elmidola were also arrested based on warrants in connection with allegations that they committed multiple attempted murder.
In Agusan Del Norte, the 29th Infantry Battalion reported an encounter with NPA rebels in Barangay Hinimbangan of Kitcharao town while they were supposedly conducting perimeter patrol.
In Malita, Davao Occidental, the 73rd Infantry Battalion also reported a 7-minute encounter with NPA rebels. No casualties were reported.
“We will not allow the NPAs, which was never a people’s army, to continue sowing fear and terror on the people,” Valencia said. – Rappler.com