CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines – Communist rebels abducted 3 policemen and a non-uniformed personnel of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Malimono town in Surigao del Norte, a day before President Rodrigo Duterte declared a unilateral ceasefire with the New People’s Army (NPA).
Captain Joe Patrick Martinez, spokesperson of the 4th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army, identified the victims as Senior Police Officer 3 Santiago Lamanilao of the Surigao City Police Office, Police Officer 3 Jayroll Bagayas, Poffice Officer 2 Caleb Sinaca, and Rodrigo Angob of the Malimono Municipal Police Station.
NPA members kidnapped the 4 PNP personnel – all off duty at the time – in Barangay Cagtinae in Malimono town as they left a cockpit early Sunday afternoon, July 24.
Witnesses told the police that about 10 rebels in military uniforms snatched the PNP personnel and brought them to the mountains.
The incident happened a day before Duterte announced a unilateral ceasefire with the NPA, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, to boost his administration’s bid to seal a peace deal with the rebels early in his term.
The National Democratic Front, which is in peace talks with the Philippine government, has yet to reciprocate the government's goodwill gesture.
The PNP, in coordination with the Armed Forces of the Philippines, is conducting pursuit and checkpoint operations to track down the abductors and urged local communities to help authorities in this regard.
The Caraga regional police headquarters strongly denounced the abduction and placed its police force on Red Alert following the incident. It also said that the Surigao del Norte Tactical Operations Command is on top of the situation.
The Caraga police leadership assured the public that "the PNP, in collaboration with the AFP, will remain relentless in maintaining the peace and order in the region."
It also ordered police officers to be extra vigilant and implement target hardening security measures to preempt the NPA’s hostile planned violent activities, even with a ceasefire in place.
Authorities said that even with the government’s unilateral ceasefire declaration, pursuit operations against the kidnappers are ongoing, since law enforcement operations are not covered by the ceasefire order.
“On our side, it is stated in the guidance of [4th ID commander] Major General Benjamin Madrigal that we will continue the conduct of Support to Law Enforcement Operation that is being conducted by the PNP. Since the NPA did the kidnapping, the PNP is just doing its mandate to enforce the law, " aid Martinez.
“However, we will wait for the decision of the crisis management committee headed by [Malimono] Mayor [Teodoro] Sinaca on this matter,” he added.
A day after the government’s ceasefire declaration, Madrigal had sent guidance to troops to pull out from areas where they have counterinsurgency operations, following the ceasefire order.
The 4th ID commander had stressed that the military’s core functions – law enforcement support operations, security of vital installations, and the conduct of peace and development engagement – will continue even with a ceasefire in place, as had been observed in the past. – Rappler.com