SECURITY forces in Mindanao launched operations to locate five soldiers who were reported missing amid what they described as “atrocities” committed by the communist New People’s Army even before they called off the ceasefire on Feb. 1.
The military and police launched the operations as the families of the three soldiers who were killed in an NPA ambush in Bukidnon demanded justice for their slain loved ones, who were ambushed although they were unarmed and in civilian clothing.
“Ang nagpatay kung kinsa man siya mas labaw ang mahitabo sa iya sa iyang gibuhat sa ako bana nga buotan kaayo [Whoever killed (my husband), something worse will happen to him because he killed a good man],” said Almalou Yee, wife of Sgt. Owen Yee.
Sgt. Yee left their base in Malaybalay, Bukidnon with Cpl. Pat Non and Cpl. Niño Christopher Talabor to get their subsistence allowance but were ambushed by NPA rebels.
The bullet-riddled bodies of the three were found later that day, with one cadaver bearing 27 gunshot wounds, another with 26 and the other one with 24.
“These acts are not only violations of their own ceasefire declaration, that is still in effect, it is an utter disregard to international humanitarian law when they used excessive force on the bodies of three soldiers they earlier abducted,” said Armed Forces spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla.
“The NPA perpetrated acts that are completely unnecessary to the already fallen soldiers,” Padilla said.
“Even before they announced the withdrawal of their ceasefire, they already conducted a series of atrocities against government forces beginning last Sunday,” he added.
Based from reports on the ground, the NPAs have conducted 18 attacks since Jan. 15 this year.
These include three abduction cases involving three soldiers in separate incidents in Surigao del Norte and Sultan Kudarat.
But the Cotabato regional police said they have intensified intelligence operations to locate two of the three soldiers abducted by communist rebels on Wednesday.
“We maintain our support for the Philippine Army in Columbio and in Sultan Kudarat,” said Supt. Romeo Galgo Jr.
An Army intelligence officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the two soldiers—Sgt. Solaiman Calocop and Private 1st Class Samuel Garay of the Army’s 39th Infantry Battalion—are believed to be kept at the border of Sultan Kudarat and Davao del Sur, particularly in the mountains of Kiblawan, Davao del Sur where the New People’s Army have a strong presence.
The soldiers were on board a motorbike when they were flagged down on Wednesday by some 15 NPA rebels in Barangay Telefas, Columbio.
Initial information showed the two infantrymen were from the battalion headquarters in Makilala, North Cotabato and were heading to their base in Barangay Telefas, hours after the communists canceled the ceasefire.
Meanwhile, AFP chief-of-staff Gen. Eduardo Año has said the military has more than sufficient forces to meet rebel groups in Eastern Mindanao.
“We have enough forces. We will assess everything before we make any troop movement or any adjustment,” he said when asked whether there is a need for more forces after President Rodrigo Duterte canceled the government ceasefire in the wake of unprovoked NPA attacks.
Año noted he has been in contact with all military commanders in Eastern Mindanao and that all of them are now aware of what they need to do.
“They know already what to do because when we [had] our command conference early last month, [part of the] contingency planning is what the military would do in case peace negotiations fail or should the NPA decide to withdraw their ceasefire,” he said.
Año placed the number of NPA combatants in the entire country at 3,700, half of whom are operating in Eastern Mindanao.
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