BUTUAN CITY — Without firing a shot, communist rebels on Wednesday captured two soldiers and 12 militiamen and seized several high-powered firearms from a military detachment at a remote village in Agusan del Sur province.
Ka Sandara Amihan, spokesperson for the New People’s Army’s (NPA) Northeastern Mindanao region, said the 14 soldiers and militiamen were taken after a raid on a militia detachment at Barangay Tubigon in Sibagat town at 4 a.m.
The rebels also took several guns, including 12 M16 rifles and two M14 rifles, and bullets, Amihan told a local radio station here.
She said the raid belied military claims that the rebel group was losing steam and support from the people in Caraga region.
Amihan said rebels holding the government troopers were not inclined to release them yet, pending an investigation of their alleged involvement in “crimes” against the people and the revolutionary movement.
But she assured the families and relatives that the soldiers and militiamen were being treated humanely.
Maj. Gen. Ronald Villanueva, commander of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division, said the latest abduction only showed that the unilateral ceasefire that the NPA declared for the holidays was a “sham.”
“The NPA is showing its terroristic colors and intention. They declared a ceasefire, yet they violate it. The rebels are fooling the Filipino people,” he said.
Villanueva, who confirmed reports that there was no firefight during the raid, asked the rebels to adhere to humanitarian laws and assure their captives’ health and safety.
He said military operations would continue to rescue the soldiers and militiamen from the rebels.
The attack came after President Duterte warned he would stop accepting returnees but instead would order the outright killing of rebels.
“If I see you, I will kill you, even if the human rights [groups] are here,” the President said in his speech, mostly delivered in Cebuano, during a barangay officials’ summit in Davao City on Tuesday.
“You are cruel and brutal people, you don’t deserve mercy,” he said, referring to the rebels who attacked on Monday police stations in Sorsogon and Camarines Sur provinces, wounding at least four policemen.
“You’re already in a continuous crime of rebellion 24 hours a day, why do I need to have a warrant?” he said. “The fact that you’re a violator of the Revised Penal Code 24 hours a day means you’re a criminal.”
He also told “lumad” (indigenous peoples) leaders, whom he had promised tractors and land titles, and NPA rebel returnees, whom he had promised houses: “I prefer that you shoot, and shoot in order to kill, because I won’t allow surrender anymore, I don’t have anything to feed them.”
This was after he expressed his frustration over the Bicol attacks that were carried out despite the declaration of a unilateral ceasefire by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
“I no longer believe this could be done through the talks anymore,” Mr. Duterte said, referring to the 50-year-old communist insurgency. “They were the ones who declared a unilateral ceasefire, I did not ask for it, but they were also the ones who launched the attacks in Sorsogon and here in the region,” he said.
They killed the wife of a militiaman at Talaingod town in Davao del Norte province on Monday, he said.
Mr. Duterte also urged village officials to support the government’s war by drawing up a list of NPA militias in their areas and reporting them to the government.
Jose Maria Sison, CPP founding chair, described Mr. Duterte as a “bloodthirsty tyrant” after calling on security forces to show no mercy to communist rebels.
In Northern Samar province, four soldiers and two residents were wounded when they were ambushed by suspected NPA rebels in Catarman town on Monday.
2nd Lt. Naya Fernandez, civil military operations officer of the 43rd Infantry Battalion, said the victims, including a woman and her 17-year-old son who hitched a ride with the soldiers, were on their way to a military camp at Barangay McKinley to bring food when their vehicle hit a land mine.
She said the rebels, after the explosion, fired at the vehicle before they fled. —With reports from Germelina Lacorte, Orlando Dinoy, Frinston Lim, Rachel Arnaiz and Robert Dejon
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