MANILA, Philippines - At least one of the 43 arrested health workers in Morong, Rizal is willing to turn state witness and reveal that the group had ties with the New People's Army, a military spokesman said Tuesday.
Armed Forces Public Information Office chief Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner also said 3 of the health workers want to return to the folds of the law.
The military arrested the 43 at a resthouse in Morong, Rizal last February 6 on suspicion that they were conducting bomb-making activities. Seized during the raid were several firearrms including a .45 pistol, a .38 revolver, 3 grenades, a 10x12 improvised land mine, two pieces of improvised Claymore land mines, two kilograms of ammonium nitrate, 7 blasting caps, 36 pieces of improvised dynamite sticks, cellular phones, and backpacks.
Brawner said the AFP is confident that the court will rule in their favor in the charges of illegal possession of explosives and firearms against the rest of the 43 detainees. He said that they have a very strong case especially since some of the detainees have pending warrants of arrest for different crimes.
A Philippine Army spokesman, meanwhile, said the arrests stopped a plan by the New People’s Army to conduct bomb attacks to commemorate their 41st foundation anniversary next month.
Army spokesman Lt. Col. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos said the combined operations by the Army and the police also foiled alleged plans by the communist rebels to disrupt the conduct of the presidential and local elections in May.
“That information came from our intelligence community, that is their assessment…The trend is that every time they’ll celebrate their anniversary, they are going to have huge-scale attacks. At the same time, this is also for the coming elections,” said Burgos.
Burgos said the 43 workers belong to a “superbody of medics and combatants from various provinces."
“Most of the attendees at the meeting in Morong, Rizal are identified NPA members, serving as medical assistants of different guerilla platoons in various NPA provincial committees. Others were members of NPA’s Special Operations Group, which usually carries out liquidation orders of the NPA. They are members of the NPA guerilla units operating in Southern Tagalog, Bicol, Central Luzon and the Visayas,” said Burgos.
“In addition, among those seized from the raid were weapons, ammunition, and explosive devices which would be used by the NPAs to terrorize the citizens of the country. This is a strong indication that the activities of the 43 accused are not limited to health trainings. The presence of weapons and explosive devices, including landmine, readily translates into espousing violence. The evidence of landmine alone is in direct contravention to the UN’s declaration against the use of landmines and the Ottawa Convention of 1997,” added Burgos.
Meanwhile, AFP deputy chief of staff for operations Maj. Gen. Gaudencio Pangilinan asked the public not to be deceived by the propaganda being spread by the Left in connection with the arrest of the 43.
Pangilinan said the military expects the legal front of the communist movement to "use every trick under their sleeves to discredit our efforts in getting rid of these NPAs once and for all.”
The official stressed that soldiers respect human rights. “Our soldiers know that whether terrorist or criminal, they have rights, rights that we all need to uphold,” he said.
“We respect these rights not because these are imposed by law or by international agreements, we uphold these rights because we know every citizen deserves it. Protection of human rights is key to our mandate to protect the people and the state,” he said.