Gov’t troops kill two, wound seven miners–NPA

THE New People’s Army (NPA) in North Eastern Mindanao has accused the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) of killing two, including a minor, and injuring seven small scale miners in Sarog, Barangay San Isidro, Santiago, Agusan del Norte last Saturday.

NPA Front 16 spokesperson Ka Oto said at around 4:30 in the morning of February 11, masked armed men in the company of the 29th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IBPA) and the Special Action Force of the Philippine National Police (SAF-PNP) fired upon the small miners in the mountains of Sarog.

Oto said the victims begged and shouted that they were civilians but were still fired upon by the armed men.

Killed were Jerson Beto , 17 years old, and Pepito Tiambong, 40 years old, residents of Brgy. Guinoyoran, Santiago, Agusan del Norte, the NPA said.

Seven more were wounded, including Samuel Jaum, 40 years old; Orly Cuyo, 38 years old; and Oca Sandag, 40 years old.  Oto said the names of the other four victims are still being determined.

The NPA spokesperson also belied an earlier statement by the military regarding the incident.

“The NPA Front 16 strongly renounces the statements made by Lt. Col. Glenn Joy, commanding officer of the 29th IBPA and its spokesperson Capt. Angelo Gomez, that they encountered and were fired upon by Red fighters of Front 16 in the mountain area of Sarog, Barangay San Isidro, Santiago, Agusan del Norte last February 11, 2017,” Oto said.

“There was no encounter between the NPA and 29th IBPA troops of the AFP because no member of the NPA in North Eastern Mindanao Region (NEMR) was in Sarog during that time,” he added.

In the area were armed paramilitaries controlled by the 29th IB such as Alan Lagangga and those they can no longer control who are former CAFGU (Civilian Armed Force Geographical Unit) and LUPACA members who have mining tunnels, Oto said.

The NPA said the armed paramilitaries are assets of, accompany 29th IBPA and PNP (in military operations), and plotted with them in ransacking mine tunnels of high grade gold.

“Friendly fire”

The NPA spokesperson also said the casualties government troops suffered were victims of a “friendly fire.”

“Killed and wounded in the crossfire were M/Sgt. Marlon Balais who was with one column of the 29th IBPA, and another who was in the other column manoeuvring at the upper portion of the mountain,” Oto said.

Also wounded were portal guards Oka Sandag, a CAFGU of Brgy. Pangaylan, Santiago and two member of the CVO (Civilian Volunteer Organization) in Purok 5, Brgy. San Isidro, of Santiago, Agusan del Norte, the NPA reported.

Oto said a day before the massacre, 29th IBPA intelligence assets Danny Muñoz, Mat Manlapas, Jun Perez and Tata Villegas, attempted to enter the tunnels. The miners reportedly refused and the four left after threatening the miners they will return.

Before the shooting happened, 29th IBPA troops also detained two small scale miners nearby, he said.

“To conceal their killing of civilians and because a soldier, CAFGU and CVO members were also killed, Lt. Col. Glenn Joy and Capt. Angelo Gomez of the 29th IBPA immediately proclaimed that their troops were fired upon by NPA members even though there were civilians nearby,” Oto said.

“Notorius 29th IBPA”

The NPA said the people know the truth about the Philippine Army unit and have listed a number of alleged victims in Santiago, Agusan del Norte:

  • Ambushed and killed Kalatinga chiettain Datu Arnel in May 2016;
  • Shot and killed Jun-jun Hudyawon near a tunner in Manhopaw in July 2016;
  • Shot and killed Ricardo Tuazon, a farmer of Brgy. Pianing in November 2015;
  • Killed and half buried Jerry Sagsag, a Lumad from Kotom, Alegria in November 2015;
  • Arrested and mauled five farmers from Henimbangan in November 2015, of which a Jerry Banao, a resident of Dahon-dahonan, remains in prison; and
  • Fired upon the Sarmiento family while they were walking in Kamingawan, killing Rusen L. Sarmiento in April 27, 2014;

“They are notorious for committing brutal crimes and lying to cover their deplorable actions,” Oto said.

The NPA called on the Rodrigo Duterte government, the provincial and local government units of Agusan Del Norte and the municipality of Santiago, to investigate the killings to prove what have been committed and to give justice to the victims.

Meanwhile, NPA Guerilla Front 16 also denied it was their fighters who fired at an earthquake relief convoy of the 30th IBPA, which included an ABS-CBN Lingkod Kapamilya Foundation’s Operation Sagip team last February 14.

Oto said they investigated but none of their units have confirmed the allegation.

He said the attack may have been staged and blamed on the NPA to put them in a bad light.

The 30th IBPA countered they have no reason to sabotage their own relief operation.

No one was hurt in the incident. (Raymund B. Villanueva)