Brooke’s Point Mayor Mary Jean Feliciano on Friday scored the Philippine National Police (PNP) for falsely reporting the surrender of 30 supposed NPA rebels who have turned out to be innocent civilians and members of local indigenous tribes.
Mayor Feliciano, who heads the local Municipal Task Force on Ending Local Communist Armed Conflict (MTF-ELCAC), referred to a surrender ceremony held last March 10 where the 30 individuals were presented in a ceremony as former rebels.
Feliciano herself had presided over the ceremonies but said she was only informed later that those were civilians when she received a complaint from the barangay captain of the area where the 30 individuals live.
“Pinapunta ako rito para basahin kung sino ang magde-denounce. Pero sila ay pinababa mula sa bundok para mag-meeting lang. Iba naman ang sinabi sa akin kaya nagulat din ako na marami akong babasahin. Pero walang nagsabi sa akin na mali ang nagaganap na denouncement,” Feliciano said during the MTF-ELCAC meeting in Barangay Mainit on Friday, March 19..
She added that while she trusts in the integrity of the police force, there should have been proper coordination on what had transpired during that supposed surrender ceremony.
She also told the IPs to return the white t-shirts given to them to wear during the presentation and to prove that they are not members of the rebel group.
“Isauli ninyo ang mga t-shirt bilang patunay at pagpapakita na hindi ninyo tinatanggap na kayo ay surrenderee sapagkat ni minsan ay hindi kayo naging bahagi o naging supporter o nakikisimpatya sa ipinaglalaban ng mga makakaliwang grupo,” Feliciano said.
The head of the Brooke’s Point Municipal Police Station (MPS) explained, however, that the white t-shirts given to the indigenous peoples (IPs) to wear did not mean they were being passed on as former New People’s Army (NPA) members.
“Iyang mga white t-shirt na ibinigay sa inyo ay hindi nangangahulugan na kayo ay kabilang sa grupo ng NPA. Maling interpretasyon yan. Ang kahulugan po ng white t-shirt na yan ay kinokondena o nililinis ang bawat isa sa inyo na hindi kayo sumuporta sa makakaliwang grupo,” P/Lt. Mark Sigue, Brooke’s Point MPS chief, said.
Barangay Mainit captain Novelin Strella Aguilar, in an interview with Palawan News, said she was surprised and felt insulted seeing her constituents being tagged as former rebels.
Aguilar claimed that the 30 individuals that were presented in that ceremony were vendors in the barangay market selling local products.
“Nagulat ako dahil ang dami nilang ibinaba ng sasakyan na nakasuot ng puti. Unang batch ay sampu at kasama ang aking lupon, pangalawang batch, sampu ulit at kasama naman ang BHW ko, pangatlo kasama naman ang aking tanod,” she stated.
“Napapahiya ako sa kinatatayuan ko dahil lumalabas na parang hindi ko kilala ang aking mga kabarangay, samantalang tuwing Martes ay nakikita ko sila na nagtitinda ng kanilang produkto sa tabuan,” she added.
Sangguniang Bayan Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representative (IPMR) Victor Colili said the lack of coordination may have caused the PNP to withhold sensitive information from civilian authorities.
Colili likewise said he was sorry for not being able to protect the IPs who he said were humiliated by the actions of the police.
A certain “Ka Uno” who was among the 30 individuals presented during the ceremony, told Palawan News he and three others in the group were indeed former NPA rebels but they have already previously surrendered and are already civilians.
He said they were recruited to the NPA in 2010 by a certain Ronces Paragoso.
Colili also said Ka Uno and his companions have already denounced the leftist group a few years ago. He claimed that the intelligence information received by the PNP was not accurate.
The MTF-ELCAC of Brooke’s Point is set to report the incident to the Department of Interior and Local Government. (with reports from Marialen Galicia-Archie)