Malaybalay incident a ‘legitimate encounter’–NPA

THE New People’s Army-North Central Mindanao Region (NPA-NCMR) belied accusations by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) that the soldiers killed in Malaybalay City, Bukidnon last February 1 were unarmed and were only deployed for “peace and development” duties.

In a rejoinder to their earlier pronouncements about the incident, NPA-NCMR spokesperson Ka Allan Juanito said Sgt. Owen Yee, Corporal Niño Christopher Talabor and Corporal Pat O. Non were engaged in psy-war (psychological warfare) operations and that their deaths was a result of a legitimate encounter.

“The allegation that the three were arrested and killed was therefore not true. That they were unarmed was also not true,” Juanito said.

The NPA spokesperson revealed that three Armscor-manufactured .45 pistols were recovered from the soldiers with serial numbers 2052053, bb01224 and 1435922.

According to the NPA, on February 1 at 5:20 in the afternoon, two of their guerrillas flagged down the three soldiers at Sitio Kalib, Kibalabag, Malaybalay City but they made a move of pulling out their pistols, forcing the guerrillas to open fire.

“Not the NPA’s style”

Earlier, the Philippine Army accused the NPA of murdering the three soldiers.

Capt. Joe Patrick Martinez, 4th Infantry Division spokesperson, said the soldiers were unarmed and wearing civilian clothes when they were “murdered.”

“They were not just gunned (down); they were murdered,” Martinez said.

On February 3, two days after the incident, Philippine National Police (PNP) scene of crime operatives said the soldiers sustained 76 gunshot wounds between them.

But the NPA statement denied riddling the soldiers with bullets.

“The three corpses were not desecrated other than the gunshot wounds. Since their bodies were not immediately retrieved for more than 24 hours, (these) must have decomposed due to the changing weather conditions,” Juanito said.

The NPA also denied taking money worth 12 thousand pesos from the soldiers the AFP claimed were the soldier’s subsistence allowances newly-withdrawn from bank cash machines.

“The NPA field units never took money from what the AFP claimed to be their subsistence allowance.  The wallets of Sgt. Yee and Cpl. Talabor were never taken.  Only the wallet with an ID card and documents of Cpl Non was retrieved,” Juanito said.

Spreading decadent influence

Juanito said the three soldiers were members of the Philippine Army’s 8th Infantry Battalion encamped since October 26 at Barangays Kibalabag and Manalog, Malaybalay City under the pretext of delivering social services through the so-called Community Organizing for Peace and Development.

“For the whole duration of their stay, not even a single sack of cement was being delivered by them to the said barrios,” Juanito said.

“In fact, they are spreading decadent influence to the peace-loving residents like drinking sprees, gambling and pornography. They intend to corrupt the minds of our youth, disengaging them from the mass movements and struggles,” the NPA spokesperson added.

Juanito also revealed that the 8th IB tried to force the barangay councils to pass resolutions requesting their presence as protection but were refused.

The NPA said they have already reported the 8th IB’s presence in the civilian communities to the NDFP ceasefire committee in the peace talks, which in turn furnished a copy of the said report to its GRP counterpart as early as November 20.

“The NPA-NCMR exposed their provocative actions during COPD such as interrogations and pinpointing NPA encampments and scouring the forested areas of the barangays using civilians as guides,” Juanito said.

Sincere condolences

“To the families, relatives and friends of the fallen soldiers, we offer our sincere condolences,” Juanito said.

“This incident happened while the peace negotiations between the NDFP and the GRP (were) going on.” Juanito added. He said the AFP-PNP-CAFGU (Civilian Auxiliary Force Geographical Unit) has violated the unilateral ceasefire by “invading the areas of the revolutionary movement,”

The military’s presence in the civilian communities suppresses the livelihood and daily activities of the people in more than 500 barangays nationwide, Juanito said. (Raymund B. Villanueva) (*