Monday, October 10, 2011

NPA Armed Contacts for the Fourth Quarter of 2011, Part I: The Release of Four BJMP Personnel

In my entry, "NPA Armed Contacts for the Third Quarter of 2011, Part," I discussed the NPA's capturing of four BJMP, or Bureau of Jail Management and Prisons, employees during an operation to free high ranking NPA guerilla Dennis Rodinas in July of 2011. With the AFP, or Armed Forces of the Philippines' capture of a large NPA encampment in the municipality of Cateel, in Davao Oriental Province on May 29th, 2011, Front 20, the Conrado Heredia Command of the SMRC, or Southern Mindanao Regional Committee ceased functioning as the Custodial Command of Mindanao. Instead Front 53, the Herminio Alfonso Command of the SMRC assumed that duty. So it was that after initially being taken captive by Front 88 of the NCMRC, or Northcentral Mindanao Regional Committee the four men:

1) Inspector Murphy Bomoway Todyog, Warden of the Misamis Occidental Provincial Jail in Ozamiz City

2) Inspector Erico Dacillo Llamasares, Warden of the Cagayan del Oro City Jail who had been hitching a ride home in a round about fashion

3) Special Jail Officer 3 Rogelio Begontes

4) Jail Officer 1 Rolando Delta Bajoyo Jr.

were passed from NPA Front to Front until they reached the Custodial Command, Front 53, which is centered upon the border of Davao City and North Cotabato Province. The capture of BJMP personnel created quite a stir because heretofore such functionaries were considered verboten as they are technically non-combatants although a creative interpretation of IHL/LOAC, or International Humanitarian Law/Laws of Armed Conflict CAN render them otherwise. In any event it definitely marked a turning point in the NPA's 42 year old insurgency and sent a definite chill up the spine of many a civil servant. All the more so when, on August 10th, the NPA formally bestowed POW (Prisoner of War) Status upon the four men. Obstensibly a positive development in the immediate sense because it guaranteed civil treatment of the four men in accordance with the Geneva Convention since the NPA, via its above board representative the NDFP, or National Democratic Front of the Philippines, and the Government, had jointly inked the CARIHLHR, or Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights as the first of four projected Interim Agreements of the GPH-NDFP Peace Process is known.

However, the conferring of POW Status boded poory for the long term because it had shown that the NPA was willing to ratchet up the stakes and would now possibly be focusing on capturing more than AFP, PNP (Philippine National Police), and CAAs (Civilian Active Auxiliaries as the cornerstone of the AFP tactical facet of its COIN, aka Counterinsurgency Programme are collectively known). If the NPA was now willing to capture BJMP personnel who would be immune? Conceivably any state representative was now fair game.

The actual rationale behind this "widening" of the conflict was the impasse in the GHP-NDFP Peace Process. As I have discussed in depth in my "GPH-NDFP Peace Process" entries the Talks began wonderfully in Oslo, Norway in February of 2011 but with an undercurrent of tension related to the failure of the Government to uphold the bi-lateral Joint Agreement known as JASIG, or the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees that both sides had entered into way back in 1995. Since again, I have discussed JASIG in depth in my aforementioned "GPH-NDFP Peace Process" entries, I will not bore my readership with yet another recounting except to say, for brevity's sake, that it involved the protection of all CPP/NPA members directly involved in the Peace Process from arrest and subsequent detention. With well over a dozen (at one point nearly two dozen) figures in prison the Government's upholding of JASIG leaves a lot to be desired.

In every NPA capture of the last decade prisoners have been released at about the two week mark with a couple of exceptions lasting more or less four weeks. The four BJMP prisoners have spent nearly four months incognito. During these ften weeks major AFP tactical operations have taken place in what the AFP likes to optimistically label "Search and Rescue Missions" but what in reality actually amount to a "gross disregard for the lives of such prisoners." Indeed, the four men had been scheduled for release on October 5th after being offered in exchange for an AFP SOMO/SOMA (Stop of Military Operations/Stop of Military Action) on September 29th. When the desired SOMO/SOMA didn't materialise the NPA opted to still go forward with the planned releases setting the aforementioned date of October 5th. When, on October 4th the AFP began amping up the intensity in its tactical operations the NPA scuttled the planned release. Specifically cited was an operation by the 57IB (Infantry Battalion) within the municipality of Magpet in North Cotabato Province. Only after North Cotabato Governor Emmylou Talino Mendoza screamed bloody murder did the 57IB sheepishly cut the operation short and pull out of town. Having achieved this extremely minor concession atop the larger promise of the Government in Manila to work on the JASIG issue, the four men were released on Saturday, October 8th, in Magpet's Barangay Balite.

During the three hour propaganda fest the mayors of two Bukidnon Provincial towns, Kibawe and Kitaotao joined the Mayor of Makilala (North Cotabato Province) in sitting through that uber-boring snooze fest as Front 53's leader, Ka Jody, enjoyed his first hand over and put everybody to sleep with non-sensical claptrap about Mao and the Revolution. Also on hand were representatives of local multi-sectoral front groups as well as Governor Mendoza, Vice Governor Gregorio Ipong and Catholic clergyman of the Liberation Theological cesspool UCCP, and other assorted hanger ons desperate to share in an event the nation's media ignored.

The four released men were immediately driven to Kidapawan City, the provincial capital of North Cotabato where yet another propaganda fest- this time for the Government- took place at the Bishop's Official Residence. There Mr.Bajoyo, now in tears, mooned over the NPA, and I quote verbatim, "We are so grateful that the NPA treated us so well, they treated us like brothers." Stockholm Syndrome anyone? In more important news perhaps, the two senior men, Warden Inspectors Todyog and Llamasares are now under investigation for their roles, if any, in the NPA operation that sent them obstensibly into captivity. The van transporting several inmates including a very high value NPA prisoner, the object of the NPA operation that led to the four BJMP personnel being taken, was without a security escort and more importantly, had taken an unsual route. Seeing as how that route is never taken it stands to reason that the NPA had inside assistance since Front 88 was able to implement a checkpoint in advance of the van's arrival. Maybe a couple of men wish they hadn't been "released."

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