MANILA – A Philippine Army major has gone missing after several armed men believed to be New People’s Army flagged down his vehicle along a highway in Diplahan in Zamboanga Sibugay last Saturday (December 3), reports said.
Zamboanga Sibugay police chief Senior Superintendent Ruben Cariaga, according to an Inquirer report, identified the officer as Major Ramon Torres.
Cariago said that Torres, along with five soldiers of the 102nd Infantry Brigade were on their way to Bayog from Ipil in Zamboanga del Sur when about 40 armed men flagged them down around 7:25 a.m. They were on board a pick-up truck reportedly owned by TVI Mining.
The police said Torres escaped and was chased by the armed men. The rest of the passengers were questioned, disarmed but were later released.
A MindaNews report, meanwhile, said the armed rebels burned the Mitsubishi Strada pick-up truck afterwards.
Lt. Col. Randolph Cabangbang, spokesperson of the Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom), said the soldiers, composed of two officers and two enlisted personnel, a militiaman and a retired soldier, were bound for Bayog town to verify reports of rampant extortion by the NPA.
Cabangbang added that some of the rebels wore military uniforms, and the others were in “media outfit.”
Allegations that NPA is engaged in extortion especially against mining companies are nothing new. Last October, the rebels attacked mining sites in Surigao del Norte, claiming it was for the environment. The military and the police however, claim the attacks were part of extortion attempts.
Without a doubt, the attacks undertaken by the rebels undermine any chance for peace. The NPA has been known to stage attacks against government forces and private businesses in many parts of the country. This is the reason why the government does not have a standing ceasefire agreement with them.
Unless the communist rebels stop its offensive and start to show sincerity, the peace talks appear to stay stalled for quite some time.