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UP CEBU GRAD, 5 OTHERS CAPTURED IN NEGROS

UP IN ARMS. Suspected New People’s Army rebel Myles Albasin, 21, a fresh graduate of University of the Philippines Cebu, cuddles her legs while sitting on the grass after her arrest in Mabinay, Negros Oriental on Saturday, March 3, 2018, in this photo released by the Armed Forces of the Philippines Central Command (Centcom). Albasin is among six alleged NPA fighters captured by the military following a firefight. Centcom also releases the above photo of the assorted firearms allegedly seized from the captured rebels.
CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/CENTCOM

SUSPECTED NPA REBELS

Six suspected communist rebels — among them a young graduate of the University of the Philippines (UP) Cebu and two minors — were captured following an encounter with government troopers in Mabinay town, Negros Oriental province yesterday.

Seized from the suspects were four M16 assault rifles with ab M203 grenade launcher, and two M4 assault rifles, assorted military war materials, assorted food and subversive documents, as well as some explosives.

Lt. Col. Darrel Banes, 62nd Infantry Battalion commanding officer, said his troops went to Sitio Tumonon, Barangay Luyang, Mabinay, Negros Oriental on Saturday to check on reports that about 20 New People’s Army rebels were engaged in extortion activities. They were met by gunfire, which prompted the soldiers to fire back. The battle lasted for about 45 minutes, ending in the capture of six suspected NPA fighters, said Banes.

Among those arrested was 21-year-old Myles Albasin, a fresh Mass Communication graduate of UP Cebu and a native of Cagayan de Oro City.

Lawyer Liza Corro, UP Cebu’s chancellor, confirmed in a statement that the arrested young woman graduated from the university in June 2017.

“Albasin is an alumna who graduated last June. We have no information about her current involvements. But I believe she is entitled to due process and is considered innocent until proven otherwise,” she said.

The two minors were both male and both 17 years old. One is a resident of Mandaue City in Cebu and the other is from Kabankalan City in Negros Occidental, according to an information released by the Police Regional Office in Central Visayas (PRO-7).

‘Publicity stunt’

Albasin, meanwhile, had been a member of some progressive groups during her four-year stay in the city while studying at UP Cebu, some of her peers here said.

For a few months after graduating last year, she was the secretary general of the Cebu provincial chapter of Anakbayan, according to Joisa Cesista, the group’s current chairperson.

“She was the secretary general for a few months last year; until our event with the Lumads and the Moro in August. That’s as far as I can remember.

Then we haven’t heard from her. She did not inform us. Then we elected a new set of officers,” Cesista told Cebu Daily News in a phone interview.

Since then, they have lost touch with her. Albasin did not also officially declare to the group that she was leaving.

Cesista stressed that Albasin’s alleged involvement with the New People’s Army (NPA) was not something they could confirm since they had not been updated on her activities and had no first-hand information on her arrest.

The Nagkahiusang Kusog sa Estudyante (NKE), a leftist student organization in UP Cebu, acknowledged Albasin as one of its members and lamented her capture.

“Told from the perspective of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), we are made to believe that this is a successful military operation. We refuse to accept their publicity stunt,” the group said in a statement on their Facebook page.

The group described Albasin as “steadfast in the struggle of the exploited and oppressed masses.” They said she has been exposed to “progressive theories and ideologies” inside UP Cebu and has been immersing with the masses outside the campus.

They said she was “well-acquainted” with the problems of the society and had been arousing, organizing, and mobilizing students and the people during her years as a student leader.

“Because of the heightening crisis in the larger society, the people, especially the youth, have heeded to take on the most advanced form of struggle in the hopes of alleviating our nation from the shackles brought upon by the fascist and anti-poor US-Duterte administration,” the post further read.

Minor rebels

According to Banes, the recruitment of minors to join the armed struggle was a “clear manifestation of gross violation” on the Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act. Before the encounter at 2 a.m. on Saturday, Capt. Eduardo Precioso, 3rd Infantry Division spokesman, said that two rebel camps were discovered abandoned last week in Barangay Samac, also in Mabinay, and Barangay Panciao in Manjuyod, Negros Oriental.

Also last week, a farm tractor in La Castelana, Negros Occidental and a cargo truck in Canlaon City, Negros Oriental, were separately burned by rebels. The arson was later owned up by the NPA Leonardo Panaligan Command in central Negros.

In a statement, Col. Medel Aguilar of the AFP Central Command (CentCom) said that the arrest was a major breakthrough for the military.

“They were NPAs because they have all firearms recovered from them,” he said, adding that they were thankful that the government troops involved in the encounter were all safe.

Aguilar said they were yet to talk to the new and young “recruits” about the incident to determine if they were innocent or not.

Cases

Meanwhile, the Negros Oriental Provincial Police Office (NOPPO) has been tasked to file the cases against the arrested suspects, said Senior Supt. Edwin Portento, the NOPPO director.

He said all the arrested suspects will face charges for violation of Republic Act 10591 or the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act for possessing unlicensed firearms and explosives.

“The minors who are arrested are still waiting for their proof that they are minors because there were reports that they are already all of legal age,” Portento said.

If these two will be proven that they were minors, two other arrested suspects will also face another case for child abuse as minors are not allowed in combat.

Aside from Albasin and the two minors, the other arrested alleged NPA members were identified as Jomar Garle, 29, and a resident of Barangay Buenavista, Himamaylan City, Negros Occidental; Randel Hermino, 19, also from Buenavista, Himamaylan; and Joey Vailoces, 18, and a resident of Barangay Luyang, Mabinay, Negros Oriental.

Portento said that the arrested suspects are still in the City of Tanjay and are undergoing questioning.

Investigate

For his part, Aguilar urged the officials of UP Cebu as well as other universities in the Visayas to investigate the incident since there were three young suspects who ended up in the mountains, and carrying firearms together with rebels.

“If they will die, what will happen to them if they will die in the encounter?” Aguilar added.

Aguilar said CentCom would like to talk with the management of UP Cebu to tackle the matter.

“We are not pointing that all students of the university are like those but there were several of them that are entering these activities,” Aguilar said.

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