By RUBI DEL MUNDO
Spokesperson, NDFP-Southern Mindanao
Provided that the Eastern Mindanao Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines suspends its military operations in at least 11 villages of Loreto town, Agusan del Sur, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines – Southern Mindanao will release the five prisoners of war who have been under the custody of the Comval-North Davao-South Agusan Subregional Command of the New People’s Army since 24 October.
To ensure the safety and security of the POWs and their NPA custodians, the AFP, particularly the 26th Infantry Battalion, must withdraw from the villages of Binucayan, Balite, Pangkat, Johnson, Sta. Theresa, San Mariano, Kauswagan, Sabud, Kasapa 1, Kasapa 2, and Valentina, all in Loreto, as well as Barangay (village) Datu Dabaw in Laak, Compostela Valley.
No other impediments in the pardon and release are in sight for POWs Mansanitas barangay captain Lito Andalique, barangay kagawads (councilors) Marvin Bantuasan, Crisanto Piodos, and Balaba Andalique, and CAFGU tribal member Pepe Subla. They have already apologized for their counter-revolutionary and anti-people activities, and have pledged to desist from being active paramilitary forces who participate and condone the human rights abuses under Oplan Bayanihan.
The 26th Infantry Battalion’s combat operations, camouflaged as rescue activities for the POWs in the last few weeks, have miserably failed in securing the release of the captives.
The military operations have only resulted in more atrocities against the masses on top of the military’s killing of two peasant leaders, dropping of 24 bombs and dislocating the masses, and torturing and detaining two Lumad minors whom they accused of killing barangay captain Ramon Diogonan.
In the last few weeks, this same military unit has ransacked the peasants’ homes, destroyed their properties, and looted their farm animals.
In contrast to the blatant fascism demonstrated by the 26th Infantry Battalion and the AFP Eastern Mindanao Command, the human rights victims and the masses fought and struggled in defense of their land and families. Due to the people’s clamor in Agusan, the GPH court was forced to release the two minors recently after four months of detention, based on the merits of the case, and because of the sheer idiocy of the charges filed against them.
As punishment against the fascist 26th IB and the Scout Rangers, the NPA’s series of tactical offensives since July — 21 assaults and five demo-explosions — have resulted in the killing of 26 soldiers, including a lieutenant from the Scout Rangers, and 14 wounded on the AFP side. Only one from the NPA was wounded.
Indeed, despite the display of brutality and use of superior military force by the AFP, the masses, people’s militia, and the revolutionary movement have persevered in fighting for justice and defending the gains of the armed struggle. The struggle against mining, palm oil, and other foreign incursions of the Lumad’s ancestral domain and peasant lands in Agusan continues.