Monday, April 25, 2016

Army, PNP eye links between soldier's abduction and farmers' protest in Kidapawan

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 25): Army, PNP eye links between soldier's abduction and farmers' protest in Kidapawan

Police and military authorities here suspected that the abduction of a soldier by New Peoples’ Army (NPA) in North Cotabato could be a retaliatory attack following the bloody April 1 dispersal of protesting farmers.

This after responding elements of 39th Infantry Battalion and North Cotabato police recovered several sacks with markings “Justice for Darwin Sulang” in a highway in Barangay Malasila, Makilala town where Private First Class Edgardo Hilaga was abducted on April 21.

Capt. Joann Petinglay, speaking for the 6th Infantry Division, said the military remained clueless as to the real motive in the abduction of PFC Hilaga.

“We are coordinating with the local police in determining the motive,” Petinglay told reporters.

“In the meantime, our focus is how to rescue Hilaga safely and without bloodshed,” she added.

About 30 heavily armed men in fatigue uniform disguised as soldiers implementing election gun ban flagged down Hilaga who was driving a motorbike.

Petinglay said Sulang who was in civilian clothes immediately identified himself as a soldier he noticed green colored Army roadside and signage of the Commission on Elections.

“He was not actually the target, it was just coincidental that Hilaga passed by,” she said, adding the captive was a member of 7th Infantry Battalion based in Kabacan, North Cotabato and part of a medical team conducting medical outreach program for indigent residents.

Hilaga was a barber and can do circumcision operation that the Army conduct in its outreach program to poor communities in its area of operation.

Supt. Bernard Tayong, speaking for the North Cotabato police, said responding elements of Makilala PNP found several empty sacks with markings calling for justice to a slain farmer.

Sulang was among the protesters in Kidapawan killed during the dispersal. Police and Army intelligence community found out that the farmers were infiltrated by communist guerrillas.

“We are trying to determine if the abductors participated in the protest march and if the abduction was a form of retaliatory tactic of communist rebels,” Tayong told reporters.

Several placards used during the Kidapawan protests were also found at the roadside where the NPAs flagged down passing vehicles.

The abduction of PFC Hilaga came a day after the second Senate Justice committee investigation in Manila of the Kidapawan bloody dispersal.

No word from the NPA about the abduction.

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