NPA claims seizing 74 firearms from Comval mayor

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – The New People's Army (NPA) claims that communist guerrillas confiscated at least 74 firearms from the mining compound of the mayor of Monkayo town in Compostela Valley on Tuesday evening, April 14.

Ka Aris Francisco, spokesperson of the NPA's Comval-North Davao South Agusan Sub-regional Command, said guerrillas simultaneously staged an attack on the mining company owned by Mayor Joselito Brillantes Jr and a military detachment in Monkayo town for alleged exploitative economic activities and human rights abuses.

"The NPA punished Mayor Brillantes for his overt participation in the commission of various crimes against the people in the furtherance of his economic and political interest in Monkayo," Francisco said.

He added: "Mayor Brillantes has committed serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law for building and maintaining a private armed group in pursuit of mining interests and in conjunction with the larger armed counterrevolutionary program of the Government of the Philippines."

According to Francisco, the private armed group was "organized in collaboration with the regular, intelligence and paramilitary forces of the 25th IB under the 10th ID-Eastern Mindanao Command."

The NPA accused the alleged private armed group of acting as a security unit in Brillantes' mining business and of being involved in several cases of human rights violations and unfair labor practices. (READ: AK-47: NPA rebels' weapon of choice)

"Several persons, including ordinary farmers and residents who enter his mining compound, were missing as they were suspected of being victims of extra-judicial killings perpetrated by Mayor Brillantes’ goons. His workers have not received wages for several months now, and have not been receiving social benefits, medical assistance and other forms of remuneration," Francisco said.

'A form of counter-attack'

25th Infantry Battalion commander Lt Col Michele B. Anayron said a private security died during the incident in the mining compound, while a government militia was also killed at the military patrol base.

Anayron also confirmed that the NPA conducted a road block using trucks along the national highway of Bankerohan Sur, Montevista and the villages of Olaycon and Banlag in Monkayo.

The NPA carted away various firearms, including 3 M60 machine guns, 7 M14 rifles, 13 M16 rifles, 9 garand rifles, 3 baby M16 rifles, one carbine, two bushmaster rifles, one ultimax light machine gun, one M16 with M203 grenade launcher, one rocket propelled grenade, one Galil rifle, one AK 200, 11 shotguns, two 9mm pistols, 8 .45 caliber pistol, one .38 caliber pistol and 9 KG-9 submachine gun.

"Also confiscated during the successful tactical offensive were 14,000 rounds of assorted ammunition, military vests and radios," Francisco said.

Anayron condemned the attack, calling it a retaliatory move from the communist guerrillas. (READ: 'Communist army irrelevant in 5 years')

"This could be a form of counter-attack since we have had so many encounters with the bandits which resulted in the recovery of their high-powered firearms, surrenders of their armed members and body counts in the previous months. Mayor Brillantes has been very supportive of the government’s counter-insurgency efforts in his town," Anayron said.

But for the NPA the simultaneous attack is a warning for "warlord-politicians who deviate from civilian functions and use militarism to advance mining interest and economic gain."

Peace talks

Peace advocates are calling on both the government and the National Democratic Front (NDF) to resume the negotiations to address the root causes of the conflict.

In the The Hague Joint Declaration in 1992, both parties agreed to tackle substantive agenda, including human rights and international humanitarian law, socio-economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms, end of hostilities and disposition of forces.

In March 1998, both parties signed the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).

The government and the NDF panels have already formulated their drafts for the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (Caser) but the process has not made any progress after the talks hit a snag.

The guerrilla war in the country is considered as one of the longest-running communist insurgencies in Asia. –