Missing Soldier Now In Rebel Hands In Southern Philippines

August 13, 2007 at 4:54 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / 13 Aug) – Philippine communist rebels on Monday said they are holding a government soldier captured during a firefight in the southern province of Compostela Valley.

The soldier, Private First Class Marjun Gatela, was reported missing by the Philippine Army on August 10 in the town of Monkayo after New People’s Army rebels attacked a government patrol in the village of San Isidro.

Lt. Col. Ernesto Torres, the Philippine Army spokesman, said the soldier was reported missing. “He is missing-in-action. He could have strayed away from his group or taken hostage by the NPA,” Torres said Monday.

Aries Francisco, of the NPA’s Alejandro Lanaja Command, admitted holding the soldier and said they would soon free the “prisoner of war” to his family after a rebel court found no evidence linking him to military atrocities.

Gatela is a member of the 72nd Infantry Battalion. Aside from the soldier, a government militia was also reported missing, but the NPA did not say if it is also holding him hostage or whether he was killed or not.

“His actions against the revolutionary movement and the people were merely a result of his being an element of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Not being an officer of his unit, POW Pfc. Gatela cannot be held liable for the crimes against the people and the human rights violations committed by the 72nd IB-AFP.”

“As such, the NPA’s higher command has approved for Gatela’s immediate release as an exercise of the revolutionary political authority by the People’s Democratic Government,” Francisco said in a statement sent to the Mindanao Examiner.

He said the early and safe release of the soldier would depend on the security situation in the province.

Security officials said troops were sent to pursue the rebels holding the hostage.

“Subject to the actual conditions and security implications in the field, POW Pfc. Gatela will be released to his wife and family. The ALC-NPA shall assess the military and police movement that might hamper the safe and orderly release of Gatela,” Fransisco said.

He said the soldier was not harmed and is being treated well by rebels.

“The NPA strictly observes the rights of Gatela, in accordance to his status as a Prisoner of War under the war protocols, GRP-NDFP (Government of Republic of the Philippines-National Democratic Front of the Philippines) Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law and the 1996 NDFP Unilateral Declaration of Undertaking to Apply the Provisions of the 1949 Geneva Conventions and Protocol 1 of 1977.”

“This is in stark contrast to the AFP’s practice of using torture, intimidation, physical, psychological and sexual abuse and killings towards its captives and political detainees,” he said.

The NPA is the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, which has been fighting for a separate Maoist state in the largely Catholic country. The rebels pulled out from the peace talks with the Arroyo government in 2004 after the United States listed the CPP-NDFP and NPA as foreign terrorist organizations on Manila’s prodding. (Juan Magtanggol)

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