Sunday, December 16, 2012

Army frees 11 arrested

From the Visayan Daily Star (Dec 17): Army frees 11 arrested

Eleven of the 19 persons tagged by the military as rebels, who were arrested at the encounter site in Isabela, Negros Occidental, were released from jail Friday, after the police found that they had nothing to do with the incident, that led to the killing of two Army soldiers and the injuries of four others. Col. Francisco Patrimonio, 302nd Infantry Brigade commander, however, said eight others will remain in jail, including the three who tested positive for gunpowder nitrates, indicating that they had fired guns. The other five had also participated in the encounter, based on the accounts of soldiers who figured in running gunbattle with them in Sitio Mahopaho, Brgy. San Agustin, Isabela, last week. Two of the 11 persons released by the Isabela police are minors. Patrimonio justified the arrest of the 19 individuals suspected to be rebels, at the encounter site, saying they only wanted to find out why they were in the area. Since fleeing New People’s Army rebels can easily mingle with civilians, we have to check and verify their presence at the encounter site, he added.

Karapatan Negros and its allies slammed the military for the arrest of 19 they claimed to be innocent civilians. If you are innocent, then you are free to go, Patrimonio, citing the release of 11. If not, then, charges will be filed against them, he added. A 16-year-old, who was among the 11 released by the police, met with Governor Alfredo Maranon Jr. during a dialog Saturday at Brgy. San Agustin proper in Isabela. He admitted that some of his arrested companions were seen in the company of NPA rebels.

The Isabela encounter claimed the lives of PFCs Dennis Acosta and Oliver Grecia. The injured soldiers were identified as 1Lt. Shamon Pamittan, Sgt. Romeo Castellano, PFC Nesty Deniega and PFC Justino Esquibel, all assigned at the Alpha Company of the 11th Infantry Battalion. The four injured soldiers were conferred the Wounded Personnel Medal Saturday by Major General Jose Mabanta, 3rd Infantry Division commander, at the Jose Pablo Memorial Hospital in Bacolod City.

Karapatan-Negros secretary general, Fred Cana, had claimed claimed that Army soldiers committed human rights violations, by arresting civilians they are supposed to protect. Senior Supt. Milko Lirazan, officer-in-charge of the Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office, also justified the investigation of the 19 persons discovered at the encounter site, and the detention within 36 hours of the reglamentary period, in order to determine if they had participated in the gunbattle.

The running gunbattle between 11th IB soldiers led by ILt. Von Ryan Gomez and about 40 armed rebels, led to the seizure of the NPA camp in the area, that could accommodate about 50 persons. The items recovered by soldiers from the encounter site, that included combat packs, caliber .45 pistol with ammunition, magazines of M14 and M16 assault rifles, subversive documents and a CPP-NPA flag, among others, were also turned over by the Philippine Army to the police. Patrimonio said it is the police that will determine the charges to be filed against the eight suspected rebels, who will be liable for the death and injuries of the soldiers. Bloodstains were also discovered at the withdrawal routes of the rebels, bolstering reports that the NPA also suffered casualties in the gunbattle, he added.

Patrimonio said members of the Larangan Gerilya 1, who had redeployed majority of their fighters in the hinterlands of Guihulngan, have been developing the hinterlands sitios of Brgy. San Agustin, Isabela, and neighboring areas, into a guerilla base for almost two years now. ILt. Von Ryan Gomez, who led the assault of the NPA camp, said the presence of rebels in the area, was reported to them by residents.

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