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3 nabbed in NPA attack on mining trucks

BAGUIO CITY , Philippines  – Pursuit operations by security forces against New People’s Army (NPA) rebels who burned two trucks of a mining company in Itogon, Benguet led to the arrest of a female activist and two of her companions, officials said yesterday.

Sarah Abellon-Alikes, daughter of the late Anglican Bishop Richard Abellon Sr., was brought to the Benguet police office together with Antonio Cabalse and Marciano Sagun.

Police said they were caught at a checkpoint along Ambuklao Road, an hour after the rebels set fire to two dump trucks of Philex Mining Corp. in Sitio Tupac in Barangay Ampucao, Itogon. 

Witnesses said four male NPA rebels and a female guerrilla flagged down the trucks of Philex at Ampucao, some five kilometers from the main gates of the mining firm, told the drivers to disembark and set the trucks on fire.

The Cordillera police said an Isuzu DMAX pick-up truck with plate number ZRH 321 and a Toyota Innova with conduction sticker VJ 3573 were seen by witnesses at the site of the attack.

The human rights group Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) condemned the arrest, saying it was illegal since no charges have been filed against them. 

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The arrests fueled speculations that the city is under red alert, prompting Mayor Mauricio Domogan to come out with a statement denying reports of numerous police and military checkpoints on all roads leading to the city.

Elsewhere, the military’s Southern Luzon Command said they are expecting a slew of accusations of human rights abuses following the resumption of hostilities against the NPA.

“We expect the NPA human rights advocates to take center stage in accusing the military of human rights violations and abuses,” Solcom commander Lt. Gen. Ferdinand Quidilla said.

Troops, on the other hand, are under orders to go after the NPA.

Soldiers from the Army’s 53rd Infantry Battalion encountered a band of NPA rebels in Tigbao Zamboanga del Sur last Wednesday, triggering a seven-minute firefight.

There were no immediate reports of casualties on both sides.   – With Lino de la Cruz

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