By Tara Yap
ILOILO CITY — The Philippine Army’s 3rd Infantry Division (3ID) has maintained that criminal charges cannot be dropped against 21 former bus workers who were arrested for being alleged front leaders for the New People’s Army (NPA) in Negros Occidental province.
“As part of law enforcement, we cannot decide whether they are guilty or not. The criminal charges stay,” said Capt. Cenon Pancito III, 3ID spokesperson.
Pancito told Manila Bulletin that a lawyer tried to talk to authorities to drop charges against 21 of the 42 people charged Monday with illegal possession of firearms before the Bacolod City Prosecutor’s Office.
The 42 were part of the more than 50 people arrested in simultaneous raids of left-wing organizations Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), Gabriela Negros, and National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) in Bacolod last week by the Philippine Army (PA) and the Philippine National Police (PNP).
The lawyer told authorities that the 21 were wrongly arrested and were only at the compound to seek help from KMU after they were allegedly terminated illegally by Ceres Liner bus company.
“We cannot decide their participation. They will have a day in court,” Pancito added.
The 79th Infantry Battalion (79 IB) under 3ID also slammed KMU for agitating the former bus workers.
“Instead, they should be called regressive groups,” said Lt. Col. Emelito Thaddeus Logan, 79 IB commander.
In a statement, Logan claimed the workers are being recruited by KMU.
“This is the problem when KMU infiltrates unions. They agitate workers and make demands, but the issues they choose are not really meant to be resolved,” noted Logan.
While Logan considers union good for workers for protecting their interests, the workers themselves must exercise good judgment before joining groups that attack the government.