MANILA, Philippines – Leftist groups and the military are now in a word war over the alleged abduction of 2 University of the Philippines (UP) graduates in Nueva Ecija over the weekend.
Kabataan Partylist Central Luzon accused the 3rd Infantry Battalion of abducting Guiller Cadano and Gerald Salonga, who serve as local organizers for Anakbayan and Kabataan party-list groups.
The military tagged them as members of the New People's Army, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines which has been waging a 4-decade-old war against the government.
The 2 were supposedly picked up in Barangay RA Padilla in Carranglan town, blindfolded, and later pressured to declare themselves as NPA members. Citing quick action from local non-governmental organizations, the group said the Cadano and Salonga were supposedly transferred to the custody of the local police.
Armed Forces chief General Gregorio Catapang Jr said it was a "legitimate operation." The 2 were supposedly arrested by the police for illegal possession of firearms, hand grenades, and subversive documents.
"I think records will show there were no human rights violations and we did it based on the rule of law and it was a legitimate operation," Catapang told reporters on Monday, August 11.
Catapang said troops of the 3rd Infantry Battalion were working with the local police to serve the warrant of arrest for frustrated murder against a certain "Ely Taray," who allegedly had links with the NPA.
"It was a combined team of the PNP and the AFP. It's not just the Army. At that time, Ely Taray was not at his residence. The two graduates were there," Catapang said.
"The troops recovered in their possession firearms, explosives, and documents. They were immediately turned over to the police," Catapang added.
The police said they recovered 2 caliber 9mm pistol, 2 hand grenades, handheld radio, 2 mobile phones, several live ammunition, and subversive documents.
NPA platoon guides?
The 7th Infantry Division, where the 3rd IB belongs, tagged the 2 as guides of the NPA's Platoon-Nueva Ecija-Nueva Vizcaya-Eastern Pangasinan (PLTN-NE-NV-EP). Catapang said they are verifying this.
The incident recalls the 2006 abducation of UP students Karen Empeno and Sherlyn Cadapan by several gunmen while they were doing fieldwork in Bulacan.
Central Luzon used to be a hotbed for communist rebels. In 2013, the entire area of Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom) was declared insurgency-free.
The new allegations of human rights violations coincides with the military's celebration of the anniversary of the passage of the Internal Humanitarian Law on Monday, August 11.
"There is no basis [for allegations of human rights violations].As we celebrate the International Humanitarian Law, we emphasize that we have to respect the rule of law, human rights, and international humanitarian law," Catapang said.
The military is also investigating a shocking video of alleged soldiers summarily executing a rebel in Mindanao. – Rappler.com