NPA abducts soldier in Surigao del Norte – military

MANILA, Philippines – The military said the New People's Army (NPA) abducted a soldier in Surigao Del Norte Sunday afternoon, January 29, the latest incident to challenge the peace talks aimed at ending Asia's longest running communist insurgency. 

The military said Private First Class Erwin Salan was leading youth volunteers in a forest clean up drive in Alegria, Surigao Del Norte, when about a dozen communist rebels "abducted" him.

He is a member of the military's Peace and Development Team (PDT), a unit that the rebels have previously tagged to be doing counter-insurgency activities that are supposedly in violation of the government's ceasefire.

The National Democratic Front (NDF) representing the rebels in talks with government previously filed with the government a complaint against these military units. 

Lieutenant Colonel Rico Amaro of the 30th Infantry Battalion appealed to the NPA to release the soldier under his command. 

"We fully commit ourselves to peace, we support peace talk and peace process, we have high hopes that the leadership of Guerrilla Front 16 also have this commitment for the benefit of every Surigaonon, it is not too late to rethink their action, we appeal in the name of peace, for the release of our comrade" Amaro said in a statement released by the 4th Infantry Division based in Cagayan De Oro.

The military identified Salan's alleged abductors as members of NPA Yunit Pampropaganda (SYP) – Lumad, Front Committee 16, North Eastern Mindanao Regional Committee (NEMRC) under the leadership of Florencio Llano, alias Ricky.

The 5-month-old ceasefire between the military and the NPA was first broken in Makilala, North Cotabato on January 23 while talks were ongoing in Rome.

The peace panels failed to sign a bilateral ceasefire deal that would have imposed common rules for the military and the NPA – defining hostile acts and determining buffer zones. 

The government is aiming to complete the joint deal in a side meeting scheduled in February in The Netherlands. – Rappler.com