A clash between army troopers and alleged members of the New People’s Army resulted in the arrest of 12 suspected NPA rebels in Barangay Utod in Nasugbu, Batangas, a military official said Tuesday.
According to Brigadier General Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos Jr., 202nd Infantry Brigade commander, the 12 were onboard a jeep which was flagged down by members of Nasugbu police in a checkpoint around 10 a.m., Monday, following a firefight between soldiers and suspected rebels in the area.
“The checkpoint was set up in order to prevent the armed terrorists from fleeing from the encounter site,” he said in a press statement.
Major Gen. Rhoderick Parayno, Southern Luzon Command acting commander, said members of the 730th Combat Group of the Philippine Air Force under Maj. Engelberto Nioda will identify the apprehended individuals to verify if they are the same individuals present during the encounter.
The 12 are now under the custody of PNP Nasugbu.
Meanwhile, hot pursuit operations are being conducted by Cavite police, Batangas police, and troops of 2nd Infantry Division of the Philippine Army.
But human rights group Karapatan said nine members of their quick reaction team were illegally arrested by PNP and PAF Monday in Nasugbu.
Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general, said the nine were members of farmers’ groups Habagat and the Samahang ng Pinagkaisang Damdamin ng Barangay Quisumbing from Calaca and Lian, Batangas, respectively, were on their way to Barangay Utod to monitor human rights violations against civilians amid the ongoing military operations of the PAF against members of the NPA in Nasugbu.
Karapatan identified the nine as Leonardo Delos Reyes, 43; Carlos Sanoza, 62; Josefino Castillano, 50; Peping Sacdalan, 67; Robert Hernandez; Jocelyn Cabadin, 44; Jennelyn Bayani, 30; Orlan Cabadin, 19; and Anthony Bañaga.
She denied that they are members of the NPA.
“The authorities again claim that those arrested were members of the New People’s Army (NPA), a lie relegated as among the oldest trick in the PNP and AFP’s “how to get away with illegal arrest and human rights violations” rulebook. Whatever the State maneuver, there is no denying the systematic attack against human rights workers under the Duterte administration,” said Palabay.
Another police official identified as Capt. Melchor Durante, head of the Army’s Public Affairs Office, confirmed the arrest of the 12 suspected NPA members.
Durante said that while the 12 suspects were being interrogated, three of them managed to escape.
The arrested suspected NPAs were positively identified by personnel of the 730th Combat Group of the Philippine Air Force based in Batangas, along with the 2nd Combat Group Force and soldiers of the 2nd Infantry Division, as the armed men who attempted to ambush them.
Maj. Parayno, meanwhile, said that the ongoing hot pursuit operations have fractured the large group of NPA rebels involved in the said encounter.
“Civilian reports consistently revealed that the terrorist are still hiding within the vicinity of the encounter site,” Parayno said.
“The full might of the people’s government will ensure that these terrorists will be brought to justice. This is our commitment to the Filipino People for a peaceful and progressive society void of terrorists,” he added.
The NPA has launched a series of offensive against government forces in the past weeks in Southern Luzon, particularly in Batangas.
President Duterte has threatened to tag the NPA anew as a terrorist group which he also said were criminals and murderers following reports that an NPA ambush in Bukidnon resulted in the death of a four—month-old baby.