Minor, 7 suspected rebels nabbed at checkpoint

Families visit the eight suspected rebels at Escalante City Police Station in Negros Occidental Thursday after they were arrested in a police checkpoint at Barangay Jonob-Jonob last Wednesday. (Photo courtesy of Frances Doren Balboa/Bombo Radyo Bacolod)

By: Glazyl Y. Masculino

BACOLOD City – Eight persons believed to be members of the Northern Negros Front-Komiteng Rehiyon of the New People’s Army (NPA) were arrested in a police checkpoint at Barangay Jonob-Jonob, Escalante City, Negros Occidental on Wednesday.

Arrested were Escalante residents – Clint Mangayon, 20, Joel Guillero, 40, Buenvinido Ducay, 55, Aiza Gamao, 32, Jonathan Alcosiva, 21, and a 17-year-old boy whose name was withheld; and Toboso town natives Kenneth Serondo, 19, and Leon Charito, 60.

Guillero and Charito are spokespersons of National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) while Ducay is a member of the same group.

Police Colonel Romeo Baleros, director of Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office (Nocppo), said in a press conference in Escalante City yesterday that the arrested persons rode a passenger jeepney that was flagged down by police conducting border control and checkpoint operations at the village around 4 p.m.

The firearms and improvised explosives recovered from eight suspected members of the Northern Negros Front-Komiteng Rehiyon of the New People’s Army (NPA) in a police checkpoint at Barangay Jonob-Jonob, Escalante City, Negros Occidental Wednesday. (Photo courtesy of Escalante City Police Station)

Police records indicated that an officer noticed that one passenger who was later identified as Serondo allegedly drew his .45 caliber pistol tucked in his waist.

All passengers were subjected to frisking which led to the confiscation of six .45-caliber pistols with ammunition and magazines, a .38-caliber with ammunition, a KG9 machine pistol with two magazines each loaded with 25 live ammunition of caliber .9mm, three rifle grenades, two bottles of improvised dynamite, and 21 bottles of improvised bomb, the police report added.

Baleros said the recovered items will be examined and cross-matched with bullets and guns recovered in previous crimes.

Baleros said the successful arrest was due to information from former rebels who committed to support the anti-insurgency campaign of the government.

“We received an information from their former comrades about their alleged plan to commit atrocities during the mass surrender of thousands of former rebels during the three-day peace summit to be held on the commemoration of the 34th Escalante massacre on September 20, and accuse the state forces as the one responsible in the incident as their propaganda against the government,” he said.

They were identified by their former comrades to be part of the revolutionary movement even before they were even arrested, he added.

The seven suspects are detained at Escalante City Police Station while the minor was turned over to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

With their apprehension, Baleros said threats for the peace summit activities were downgraded.

“This is an offshoot collective efforts initiated by Police Regional Office (PRO)-6, Army’s 303rd Infantry Brigade (IBde), Special Action Force, and the local policemen in compliance with President Rodrigo Duterte’s call to end the local armed conflict particulary in Negros island,” he said.

When sought for reaction, Gamao, provincial vice president of Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay), denied the accusations against them, claiming they were not affiliated or even members of the NPA.

Gamao told the media that they were on their way home after finishing a “rekurida” to commemorate the Escalante massacre when they were arrested by some unidentified men who were wearing bonnets and civilian clothes introducing themselves as policemen.

She said they were allegedly harassed and were forced to claim the recovered firearms and explosives from them.

She said that the recovered items from their vehicle were “planted evidence” to make them look like they have committed an offense.

Inosente man mi. Indi kami supporter ka NPA kag indi kami NPA. Indi makatarungan ila ginhimo. Simple man lang kami nga mga tawo nga gapangabuhi,” she claimed, while being emotional about their arrest.

But, Baleros maintained that it was just allegations and part of the defense mechanism of the suspects, adding that the “rekurida” is just their front as they are planning a scenario to disrupt the activities in the city.

He said that the police did not violate legal procedure in their arrest.

“It was a legitimate operation. Our troops showed professionalism in enforcing the law. They were treated well and their rights were respected,” he added.

He said the suspects will be charged for illegal possession of firearms and ammunition, and illegal possession of explosives.

He added that the eight arrested persons are possibly connected with the two suspected NPAs who were arrested at Barangay Old Poblacion, Escalante City last Sept 17, following a clash between the Army’s 79th Infantry Battalion (IB) and NPA at the said village.

Mayor Melecio Yap said that the city government is also willing to provide assistance to the law enforcers to facilitate the rebel returnees.

“I hope this will be sustained because if there are no supporters, there will be no NPAs,” he added.