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Bacolod City, Philippines Tuesday, February 18, 2014
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Police nab ‘rebel leader’

Bacoleño Romulo Bitoon, alleged by the military to be a ranking leader of the Communist Party of the Philippines–New People’s Army in Negros Island, was re-arrested yesterday at a police checkpoint in Brgy. Efigenio Lizares, Talisay City, Negros Occidental.

Chief Inspector Joresty Coronica, Talisay City police chief, said the apprehension of Bitoon was made by virtue of an arrest warrant for murder issued by Cadiz Regional Trial Court Judge Renato Munez, who also denied him bail.

In April 2010, Bitoon was arrested for an arson case, and the warrant was issued by San Carlos RTC Judge Kathrine Go. He was later freed from jail after posting bail.

Col. Jon Aying, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, claimed that Bitoon served as the secretary of the Regional Unified White Area Committee of the Komiteng Rehiyonal-Negros.

Coronica said the arrest warrant issued against Bitoon stemmed from the death of 1Lt. Archie Polenzo, who was killed in an encounter with suspected NPA rebels in Cadiz City, in previous years.

He said Bitoon, 49, refused to reveal his name, when he and his companion, who was driving the motorcycle he was riding, were asked for his identity.

But Coronica said they were able to establish his identity through the two identification cards recovered from him.

The apprehension of Bitoon, a resident of Doña Juliana Heights in Bacolod City, came three days after suspected NPA leader Victor Tapang, who is facing three counts of murder, was also arrested in Brgy. E Lopez, Silay City. His arrest yielded a .45 caliber pistol and two rifle grenades.

Tapang was also denied bail by San Carlos RTC Judge Maria Rita Bascos-Sarabia, Supt. Jacob Crisostomo, Silay police chief, said.

Bitoon, who was arrested by a joint team of Talisay police, PNP Special Action Force and 303rd Infantry Brigade, was reported earlier to have vehemently denied that he had committed arson.

Several alleged NPA leaders, including two women, arrested in Negros Occidental since last year, were charged with murder, in connection with the death of Polenzo, which they vehemently denied.

Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares earlier called for the removal of prosecutors and judges who help the Armed Forces of the Philippines in filing what he called “trumped-up charges” against leaders of progressive party-lists and human rights advocates.

Several leaders of militant organizations in Negros Occidental, who have been included as respondents in robbery-in-band, arson and murder charges, also condemned the military and police for filing false criminal complaints against them.

Police and military records, however, show that majority of the alleged NPA leaders, who had been arrested in the past several years, were freed from jail, after posting bail. They include Romeo Nanta, regional commander of the NPA in Negros island.

Maj. Gen. Aurelio Baladad, 3rd Infantry Division commander, said yesterday that he respects court decisions to allow arrested rebel leaders to avail of bail.

“That is part of the rule of law,” Baladad said, adding that a portion of the IPSP Bayanihan, which is a six-year campaign plan of the AFP, ordered them to strictly follow the International Humanitarian Law and the Rule of Law. *GPB

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