[UPDATED] The Philippine National Police (PNP) arrested a badly-injured New People’s Army (NPA) leader from the intensive care unit (ICU) of a local hospital despite protests from paralegals and human rights workers.
In an urgent alert, human rights groups Karapatan-Southern Mindanao Region and the Exodus for Justice and Peace said a combined force of PNP officers and military intelligence agents in civilian clothing have taken NPA’s 1st Pulang Bagani Company leader Elizalde Cañete to the Don Carlos Police Station at about 8:30 Monday evening.
“Zaldy Cañete, an hors de combat, who suffered traumatic head injury and presently recuperating at Don Carlos Doctors Hospital (DCDH) was taken by military and police elements around 6:48 tonight,” Karapatan-SMR’s alert said.
“PO3 Rico Manuel along with several military intelligence and police elements appeared and served an outdated warrant of arrest [against Cañete],” Karapatan added.
Cañete, identified by President Rodrigo Duterte himself as the successor of famed Southern Mindanao NPA leader Leoncio “Kumander Parago” Pitao, was injured in a battallion-sized military operation in Kitaotao, Bukidnon Province last month.
He suffered a bullet wound to the head that needed an 11-hour brain surgery and was still at the hospital’s ICU at the time of his arrest.
Cañete is reported to be suffering from memory loss and loss of speech resulting from his injuries.
“We contest this arrest, as Cañete is an hors de combat, a wounded combatant that should be tended first for his critical medical condition as stipulated under the CARHRIHL (Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law) signed by the government and the NDF (National Democratic Front of the Philippines),” the EJP for its part said.
The EJP is a Church-based peace advocacy group that regularly serves as third party facilitator to the release of NPA prisoners of war.
Photos released by Karapatan SMR showed an obviously weak Cañete on a wheelchair surrounded by police officers in full battle gear inside the hospital.
The group later posted photos of Cañete inside a jail facility and said he has been complaining of head pains since last night.
No doctor or health professional has been asked to check on Cañete’s condition since his arrest, Karaparan-SMR added,
Karapatan-SMR secretary general Jay Apiag said the PNP in Don Carlos along with the military under the Philippine Army’s 3rd Infantry Battalion must be held liable should something untoward happen to Cañete under their custody.
Earlier, the NDFP called on the Duterte government to respect Cañete’s hors de combat status and release him as the NPA releases its POWs. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)