Military accused rebels of attacking aid convoy in Surigao Norte
CAGAYAN DE OROCITY – The Philippine military on Wednesday accused communist rebels of attacking an aid convoy in Surigao del Norte where troops distributed relief aid to victims of deadly earthquake in that southern province.
Army Major Ezra Balagtey, a spokesman for the Eastern Mindanao Command, said New People’s Army rebels opened fire late Tuesday on the convoy near Malimono town. He said troops returned fire, but there was no report of casualties from both sides.
Balagtey condemned the attack. “We condemn in the strongest terms the action of the NPAs that despite their declaration of ceasefire they ambushed an aid convoy that delivered relief goods to the victims of the earthquake in Surigao. This atrocity by this armed lawless group has added to the suffering and misery of the people who are trying to recover from the devastation brought by the earthquake,” he said.
The NPA – which declared a temporary ceasefire in the province to allow the delivery of relief aids - denied it was behind the strafing. It accused the military of staging the attack.
The rebel group also release a video clip of 2 captured soldiers - Sgt. Solaiman Calocop and Pfc. Samuel Garay - who were appealing to the government to cease military rescue operation because it could endanger their lives. Both soldiers, members of the 39thInfantry Battalion, were captured on February 2 in Sultan Kudarat’s Colombio town.
They are currently being investigated by a rebel court for human rights violations, among others, but Dencio Madrigal, a spokesman for the Valentin Palamine Command holding the prisoners, said the duo is being treated in accordance to international humanitarian laws.
“The two (soldiers) are presently being investigated for their involvement in the crimes perpetrated by the 39th Infantry Battalion against the people and the revolutionary movement,” Madrigal said.
“The two prisoners of war also appealed to their battalion commander and the Armed Forces of the Philippines to cease all military operations as these only endanger their lives and safety. At present, however, combat troops of the 39th Infantry Battalion are still operating in Sultan Kudarat while their peace and development outreach program teams continue to make peasant and Lumad communities as military garrisons,” he added.
President Duterte has ordered an all-out offensive against the NPA after peace talks collapsed this month. The rebels have been fighting for many decades now in an effort to establish a communist state in the country. (Mindanao Examiner)