An alleged team leader of the infamous hit squad of the New People’s Army (NPA), the Special Partisan Unit (SPARU), was arrested by police in Guindulman on Monday afternoon for two counts of murder.
Heavily armed police officers apprehended Alvin “Butchoy” Fortaliza, who was also identified as the secretary general of Anakpawis Bohol, while his group was reportedly putting up posters and handing out leaflets in Barangay Tabajan, Guindulman.
Lieutenant Col. Eufracio Malig, Jr., commander of the Philippine Army’s 47th Infantry Battalion, confirmed on Wednesday that Fortaleza has been suspected of leading a three-man SPARU team which gunned down Erwin Paulino Banga in Bilar on March 28, 2018 and Edwin Bugahod in Batuan on May 16, 2018.
Both were members of the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit or CAFGU, the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ paramilitary unit.
“Kasi ang pumatay dun sa dalawang CAFGU ay mga SPARU eh. Si [Alvin] ang suspect pero may others pa yan kasi may other personalities na kasama siya,” said Malig.
According to Guindulman police chief Captain Gerry Leones, Fortaliza peacefully surrendered after he was served with a warrant of arrest issued by Judge Jennifer Chavez-Marcos of the Regional Trial Court Branch 51 in Carmen.
Fortaliza was leading Anakpawis campaign activities in Barangay Tabajan when he was spotted by a concerned citizen who in turn alerted the authorities.
“Naa may naka-identify, naay nakaila na concerned citizen mao to gi-verify namo unya positive man na siya si Alvin Fortaleza g’yud. Gi-admit man niya pud…Timing ning pagkadakupa g’yud kay lisod mani, idlas mani kaayo,” said Leones.
Meanwhile, members and supporters of the peasant group Hugpong sa Mag-uumang Bol-anon-Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (Humabol-KMP) have publicly condemned the arrest of Fortaliza, who is the artistic director of Bol-Anong Artista nga may Diwang Dagohoy.
Humabol-KMP alleged that the apprehension was made based on fabricated charges.
“Alvin is an artist who heads the theater arts group Bansiwag (Bol-anong Artista nga may Diwang Dagohoy) noted for its socially relevant theater performances, in and outside of Bohol, that depict the lives and aspirations of poor farmers, workers, youth, women and other marginalized sectors…he untiringly campaigned for Anakpawis Partylist. And while doing this as a volunteer and with only the determination to help other people, he was arrested,” Humabol-KMP said in a statement.
The group claimed that the arrest was part of the government’s efforts to silence critics, noting that it was not an isolated case.
“Martial law is not only in Mindanao, it is all over the Philippines, though undeclared,” the group said.
“We see this as another trumped-up charges meant to harass, demonize and silence activists who dare to question and challenge this fascist government’s anti-people policies and programs like TRAIN and the anti-farmer rice tariffication law recently signed by Pres. Duterte,” it added.
Fortaliza has been turned over to the Bohol Provincial Police Office (BPPO). He was transported to Tagbilaran City onboard a heavily guarded police convoy.
Leones said that Fortaliza was subjected to tactical interrogation and has admitted to be involved in activities of the NPA, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines.
“Daghan ni siya’g mga training, pero tua nila [BPPO] ang tactical interrogation kay nanawag man, mi-voluntarily divulge information siya [Fortaleza] about his participation in CPP-NPA, gi-divulge niya ang mga training. Daghan ni iyang mga training,” he added. (A. Doydora)