By: Glazyl Y. Masculino
BACOLOD City – Army and police forces arrested 57 persons in simultaneous raids conducted in three offices of some progressive groups here and in three houses of suspected New People’s Army (NPA) here and in Negros Occidental last October 31 and November 1.
The raid led by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG)-6, in coordination with the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division (ID), and Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office (Nocppo) was conducted at the compound and offices of Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) and Gabriela Negros at Barangay Bata here, National Federation of Sugat Workers (NFSW) at Barangay 33 here, and a house at Barangay Taculing here owned by Romulo Bito-on, and wife Amaylin who are an alleged deputy secretary of education, and finance officer of the NPA, respectively.
Captain Cenon Pancito III, chief of 3rd ID’s public affairs office, said the KMU office was allegedly used as “training center” of young individuals trained by the NPA to become “child warriors” and later on become part of their liquidation team which targets the government.
The area also has a conference room, a library with books on peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and National Democratic Front of the Philippines (GRP-NDFP), application form for AnakBayan, and other personal belongings, and alleged “red flags.”
Pancito said that authorities were armed with search warrants issued by the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Quezon City for illegal possession of firearms and explosives when they conducted the operation.
He said they decided to apply for the search warrants in Quezon City because they believed that the targets of their operation also involved national personalities.
“Also, an executive court has jurisdiction in any place within the country, and we’re also trying to secure the information to avoid compromising it,” he added.
Pancito said 40 of the arrested persons were identified as alleged members of Komiteng Rehiyon-Negros, Cebu, Bohol, and Siquijor (KR-NCBS) of the NPA, and 15 newly-recruited individuals, 14 of whom were minors from different areas in Negros island who are reportedly undergoing combat-related training and indoctrination.
Among the arrested individuals identified by the authorities were NFSW secretary-general John Milton Lozande, KMU spokesperson Noli Rosales, Proceso Quiatchon, Albert Delacerna, Mary Anne Krueger, Bito-on couple, Danilo Tabura, and Roberto Lachica.
The minors were turned over to the City Social Welfare and Development Office while the remaining individuals were in custody of the Nocppo.
Pancito said they will be charged for illegal possession of firearms, ammunition, and explosives, and qualified human trafficking.
A total of 32 firearms, three fragmentation grenades, two 40MM grenade launcher and assorted live ammunition were confiscated inside the said premises.
In a press statement, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) slammed the authorities for conducting what they claimed to be an “outright overkill and illegal arrest of civilians.”
KMP spokesperson Danilo Ramos, said “the conduct of these mass raids were clearly illegal and unjust that the raiding teams had to come up with preposterous accusations that the civilians were allegedly conducting firearms and explosives training in the offices.
“Napakasinungaling ng mga pulis at militar. Those arrested must be released unscathed,” he added.
Bayan Muna and Gabriela also condemned the operation of the state forces and demand that these attacks against progressive groups be stopped.
They also claimed that the recovered firearms and explosives were “planted evidence.”
In response, Pancito reiterated that the operation was legitimate and the application of search warrants was an offshoot of validated information reports from concerned citizens of the city on the presence of suspicious armed personalities visiting the said premises.
Pancito said they know these people as members of the progressive groups and they are not targeting them as part of these groups.
“They’ve been there for so long but the issue here is the illegal possession of firearms and explosives, and we should act on this,” he added.
He said “this is a big blow against these organizations for carrying illegal weapons.”
“Either they have direct participation with the NPA or one way or another, malaking kawalan ito sa kanila. This is a good effort on the part of the Philippine Army and the Philippine National Police (PNP) in establishing genuine peace and order in Negros island,” he added.
They have all the remedies that they can assert being provided by the law. We have a proper court to lodge their complaints and let the court decide on it, he said.
“If these people want to do their thing, please don’t possess firearms and commit crimes. Do not commit violations of the law and this land. But, if you insist to possess these weapons, we will enforce the law as mandated and do our job for peace and security,” he said.
‘ALLEGED NPA LINKS’
Aside from the 55 persons arrested on Thursday here, authorities also collared two women in Escalante City on Nov 1.
Pancito said that Maria Lindy Balaobao Perucho, deputy secretary for finance of KR-NCBS, and Imelda Pasinabo Sultan, deputy secretary for finance of the same group, were arrested at Barangay Jonob-Jonob and Barangay Balintawak, respectively.
Authorities also applied search warrants on the houses of these suspects and another suspect at Barangay Hacienda Fe but the subject was not there and there was no recovery.
Seized from Perucho were a .45 caliber with ammunition, .38 caliber, and three 40MM grenade launcher ammunition while confiscated from Sultan were three .45 caliber with 17 live ammunition, seven grenade launcher ammunition, two claymore type, and subversive documents.
Pancito said that the arrest of the suspects can be considered a major setback to the ground work of the communist terrorists.
For his part, Police Colonel Romeo Baleros, Nocppo director, said that the state forces were able to prevent and weaken the mass base of the NPA and military building efforts in the province.
Meanwhile, Pancito said the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) will always be prepared to confront these people in case of retaliation from the enemies.
“We are ready if they challenge us provided that it would be in the proper court,” he said.
We will do it legally and we hope these people should also do legal moves provided under the law, he added.