By ALEX D. LOPEZ
DAVAO CITY, Philippines – The 1st Pulang Bagani Company of the Merardo Arce Command of the New People’s Army in Southern Mindanao (1ST PBC-NPA) denied earlier reports that the four army soldiers killed in Paquibato District on Sunday, November 4, were unarmed and off-duty.
In an e-mailed statement sent to the members of the media on Tuesday, Leoncio Pitao alias Ka Parago of 1st PBC-NPA said last Sunday’s battle “can hardly be described as massacre or an abduction, for it was a fitting retribution against a notorious Army unit feared and hated by the peasant masses in Paquibato.”
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) 10th Infantry Division spokesperson Col. Lyndon Paniza when interviewed by the media after the incident said the four were “non-combatants since they belong to Peace and Development Teams,” the term used by military of their forces deployed in countryside areas for counter-insurgency operations.
Ka Parago however said the fatalities were “armed combatants of the 69th IB Special Operations Team, not defenseless functionaries or civilians falsely depicted by the AFP,” pointing out that the same Army unit is responsible for the recent summary execution of a hemp farmer, Mires Esdang, in Barangay Malabog, Paquibato District last October 18.
The recent incident, Parago added, is just one among the many other grave abuses committed by the same Army unit deployed in the area “ranging from psychological warfare against peasants, intimidation of families of NPA combatants and forcing them to surrender, coercing civilians to use as guides,and other forms of harassment in the course of its intelligence, triad, strike operations and civil-military operations in Paquibato district.”
“They were not innocent peace advocates, as the AFP claimed, but “psywar agents and active elements of the AFP implementing the US-Aquino regime’s Oplan Bayanihan,” Ka Parago said.
The four soldiers identified as Private First Classes Ahian Vir Dolero, Marvin Lauronal, Noel Sigan and Private Marcelo Himaya under the 69th Infantry Battalion, were said to be heading back to their camp in Mapula, Paquibato from a market in Panabo when ambushed by the NPAs.
The NPA in its statement cited that the four were killed when they “fought it out” against the members of 1st PBC-NPA who mounted a check point in Purok 5, Barko-Barko, Mapula, Paquibato District.
The NPA cited that one of them “died several meters away from the scene, while an NPA member was wounded in the ensuing troops engagement which the AFP ridiculously painted as a brutal murder of its ‘unarmed, off-duty soldiers.
Three .45 caliber pistols were also confiscated by the NPA from the soldiers in the incident, according to the statement. These were a 7.45 limited with serial number 974502), a Colt 45 with serial number 184419, and a Norimco .45 (SN: 4234).”(Alex D. Lopez/ davaotoday.com) Reposted by