The Apolinario Gatmaitan Command of the New People’s Army and Karapatan Central Visayas have issued separate statements denouncing the arrest of six persons in Mabinay, Negros Oriental, accused of illegal possession of firearms and explosives.
Juan Malaya, who claimed to be the spokesperson of the AGC, said in a signed statement that government troops are the ones entering homes of poor farmers in the hinterland barangays without asking permission, and harassing them to admit they are members and supporters of the NPA.
The statement did not say whether the persons arrested are members of the CPP/NPA.
Fritzy Pamulleno, who claimed to be representing Karapatan Central Visayas, said in an interview that the six were in the area to organize the children of farmers, to appraise them of the present situation, as part of their rights to know what is going on in the present leadership, including developments on the TRAIN law, charter change, high cost of living, and federalism, among others.
Pamulleno said Myles Albasin, the Masscom graduate of the University of the Philippines Cebu, and the rest of the group are volunteers who sought shelter after long hours of organizing the farmers, and awakened at early dawn with the military around them. He also said that there was no encounter whatsoever. After talking with the six, Pamulleno said they didn’t even know how to operate the firearms.
However, during the inventory of the alleged confiscated firearms, each one of them was asked, in the presence of the media, and they pointed to the rifles that belong to them.
At the Negros Oriental Detention and Rehabilitation Center in Dumaguete City, Albasin had refused to issue any statement until they have prepared their counter affidavits, that will be submitted to the Provincial Prosecutor’s Office by March 19.
Negros Oriental Provincial Police Office director, Senior Supt. Edwin Portento, said it is very difficult to imagine that they were in that place without any purpose and bringing firearms, when most of them are not from the area. He said the PNP or even the Army cannot afford to spare their issued firearms to plant on them as evidence, and it was not a coincidence that there were six firearms for six of them, Portento pointed out.
As to claims that there was no encounter, Portento said it was so quick that the six, all in their 20s, immediately surrendered upon sensing that they were surrounded.
He said the provincial command has recommended their detention at the NODRC to enable their family members, to reach them and disprove insinuations that they will be restricted.
NODRC provincial warden Franklin Culanag stayed overnight at the jail facility to supervise security measures, after reports said that the arrested persons are considered as high value targets, one of them being a political officer of the “left”.
Culanag said his main task is to ensure the safety of all detainees, and there will be no discrimination or special treatment. As a further security measure, the six alleged members of the CPP/NPA have been placed in different cells.
He said he is not restricting relatives from visiting them, provided they comply with jail policies of “no ID no entry” and body search for possible contraband, including cell phones.*JG
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