Alleged communist leaders arrested in Butuan City

Bobby Lagsa
But the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines says Melissa Comiso and Nore Torregosa are Lumad teachers and not New People's Army leaders

ARRESTED. The military claims Melissa Comiso is a New People's Army leader, but a religious group says she is a Lumad teacher. Photo from the Philippine Army

CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines – Two alleged leaders of the communist New People’s Army (NPA) were arrested by police and soldiers in Butuan City on Thursday, October 10.

The Philippine Army announced the arrest on Saturday, October 12.

Colonel Maurito Licudine, commander of the Philippine Army’s 402nd Infantry Brigade, identified the suspects as Melissa Comiso, alias Meli, allegedly the acting finance officer and education/propaganda staffer of Komisyong Mindanao, and Nore Torregosa, alias Johnny, reportedly the liaison and intel staffer of the North Central Mindanao Regional Committee.

Licudine said the arrest was a result of “months of thorough case buildup” by the military and police.

Comiso and Torregosa were arrested while authorities were serving a search warrant at the Stanley Apartment in Barangay 14, Limaha, Butuan City.

Licudine said authorities recovered guns, ammunition, hand grenades, blasting caps, laptops, cellular phones, tablets, and subversive documents.

The Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP), a religious organization, cried foul, saying that Comiso is not an NPA leader but the head of RMP Northern Mindanao’s Literacy and Numeracy (LitNum) Program.

“Melissa has been a longtime member of RMP. As a Lumad herself, she has been the head of RMP-NMR LitNum Program and has managed a number of these schools. She has tirelessly sought to bring education to Lumad communities and work with her fellow Lumad and other advocates to achieve this goal,” the RMP said in a statement.

With Comiso’s efforts, added the RMP, she has been repeatedly tagged by state forces as an “NPA supporter.”

The group also said Torregosa is Comiso’s fellow Lumad teacher.

But Licudine said the arrest of Comiso and Torregosa was a result of the information gathered from a community where Comiso and her group reportedly spearheaded organization and financial collection activities to support NPA rebels in the mountains.

The RMP is demanding the immediate release of Comiso and Torregosa, whom the group said are both detained at the police’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Office in Butuan City. – Rappler.com