NEW NEGROS ARMY CHIEF VOWS TO GO AFTER REBELS
COL. BENEDICT AREVALO, newly-assumed commander of the Army’s 303rd Infantry Brigade based in Murcia, Negros Occidental, vows to prioritize the operations against communist rebels, during an interview in Bacolod City on Monday, Nov. 5, 2018. (Photo by Nanette L. Guadalquiver)
BACOLOD CITY — Col. Benedict Arevalo, newly-designated commander of the Philippine Army’s 303rd Infantry Brigade, vowed to hunt down guerilla fronts of the New People’s Army (NPA) in Negros Island.
“My priority is, of course, keeping the peace in the hinterlands. My priority is to run after the NPAs,” Arevalo said in an interview on the sidelines of the 120th Negros Day commemoration here on Monday.
He also said the Army wants to prevent the communist rebels from engaging in extortion activities against candidates campaigning for the elections in May next year.
“We are supposed to be always on the offensive. If you have monitored our operations in Panay, my priority is to attack the NPA,” he added.
Arevalo took over the top Army post in Negros Island last week after he swapped assignments with Col. Alberto Desoyo, who now heads his former unit, the 301st Infantry Brigade, based in Dingle, Iloilo Province.
Aside from the counter-insurgency operations, Arevalo said the Army will also continue their developmental projects and community support programs in Negros.
Before his latest assignments in Western Visayas, Arevalo was first assigned as intelligence and operations officer in Negros in the 1990s.
The 303rd Brigade, stationed in Murcia, Negros Occidental, covers four battalions, including the recently-deployed 94th Infantry Battalion along with the 62nd Battalion, 15th Battalion, and 79th Battalion.
Meanwhile, Arevalo urged human rights group Karapatan to release the 14-year-old witness in the “Sagay 9” massacre in northern Negros.
He said the Army believes the group could be hiding something because of their continued custody of the minor.
“Marami naman nasasabi sana sa imbestigasyon at sa katotohan ‘yung bata. Bakit nila tinatago? ‘Yung palagay namin talaga may pinagtatakpan sila (The boy testified in the investigation and he could tell the truth. Why are they hiding him? We think there’s a cover-up),” he added.
Arevalo said that as of Sunday, they believe the boy had been detained by Karapatan for nine days already.
“Just release the minor. He is a witness. He is the one who can identify the NPAs as the perpetrators of the crime. He is the only one who can reveal what really happened,” he added.
The boy’s father had earlier filed charges for kidnapping and serious illegal detention against lawyer Katherine Panguban, head of the Women and Children’s Committee of National Union of Peoples Lawyers, an allied organization of Karapatan.
In a statement, Karapatan strongly condemned the charges, which they said, “have been wildly concocted by the Negros police and other forces who want to divert the accountability of paramilitary forces and private armies of landlords.” (PNA)