The Philippine Army will be relentless in the campaign to end local communist armed conflict in Negros Island, a military spokesperson said amid allegations of political repression and crackdown by progressive groups.
“We will never back down from our efforts of fulfilling our promise to the people of liberating Negros from insurgency. As long as crime is being committed, we will do our task of maintaining peace and order in the area,” Capt. Cenon Pancito III, public affairs chief of the Philippine Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, said in a press briefing here on Thursday afternoon.
Pancito, together with Brig. Gen. Benedict Arevalo, commander of the 303rd Infantry Brigade, responded to the accusations hurled by leaders of Bayan Muna, Gabriela, Kilusang Mambubukid ng Pilipinas, and allied organizations on the simultaneous raids conducted by the police and military in areas occupied by their colleagues in Bacolod last week.
Of the 42 arrested and charged, 11 have been indicted for illegal possession of firearms, ammunition, and explosives by Senior Assistant City Prosecutor Fernand Castro of the Office of the City Prosecutor here.
The charge against 31 other respondents has been dismissed for lack of probable cause, and they were released from the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group’s (PNP-CIDG) custody on Wednesday afternoon.
“The rulings show victory for the rule of law, which government forces are part of. Victory of the rule of law is a victory of law enforcement agencies,” Arevalo said.
He dismissed former Bayan Muna party-list representative, Neri Colmenares’ statement that Negros is under a state of de facto martial law.
“We adhere to the law, we follow the law. We did not enforce martial law and said these people should be detained. We followed the rule of law,” Arevalo added.
His statement was echoed by Pancito, who said that from the start, the Army carried out efforts within legal boundaries.
“Any decision the fiscal has rendered is respected. It is the rightful office vested with the authority to determine if there is probable cause,” he said.
Pancito said the dismissal of the complaints against the 31 persons did not weaken the cases filed by the PNP-CIDG.
“The fiscal ruled that the presence of these people was incidental to the commission of the crime. The fact remains that a crime was committed,” he added.
Pancito noted that the accusation that there was a planting of evidence was not given merit by the prosecutor, who recommended the filing of charges for illegal possession of firearms, ammunition, and explosives against the 11 respondents.
“We alleged on the basis of evidence recovered,” he said. (Nanette Guadalquiver ndb via)