FORT MAGSAYSAY, Nueva Ecija – Five Aeta members of the New People’s Army (NPA) were nabbed, while four minors were rescued, by joint elements of the military and police from the site of a recent encounter in Sitio Lomibao, Barangay Buhawen in San Marcelino, Zambales.
This was disclosed by 703rd Infantry Brigade Commander Brig. Gen. Andrew Costelo, who said that the operation was undertaken by the Army’s Third Mechanized Infantry Battalion and police operatives from Zambales on August 21.
He said that the rescued minors were immediately given a medical check-up by Dr. Nida Pabunal, the Municipal Health Officer (MHO) of San Marcelino District Hospital, before they were turned over to the San Marcelino Municipal Social Welfare and Development Officer Sarah Soria, for an interview and proper disposition.
According to Costelo, the five captured NPAs tried to mingle with the rescued minors, but were later identified as NPA members.
“The captured NPA rebels are now under the custody of PNP Zambales for proper disposition. Like the minors rescued, they were checked-up by MHO San Marcelino, and they were all in good health, Costelo said.
“At the height of the exchange of gunfire, we always prioritize the safety of the civilians. Our soldiers are fighting for the protection of our country; and we are ready to sacrifice our life for the safety and security of the civilians,” said Costelo.
During the clearing operation after the encounter, the troops were able to recover eight backpacks of personal belongings, subversive documents, some personal documents, and dozens on ammunition rounds for different weapons.
Maj. Gen. Alfredo Rosario Jr., commander of the army’s 7th Infantry Division, said the capture of the five NPA members of the Aeta tribe was a manifestation of the exploitation being done by NPA rebels on the members of the Indigenous Peoples (IPs).
“Instead of protecting the Indigenous People, these NPA-terrorists are blatantly exploiting them for their own interest. They lure these innocent people to join the armed struggle and transform them into violent individuals,” said Rosario.