Government state forces continued to hunt down at least two other alleged members of the NPA’s (New People’s Army) notorious hit-squad SPARU (Special Partisan Unit) who have been tagged as suspects in the killing of two militiamen in Bilar and Batuan in 2018, said a Philippine Army (PA) official.
According to Lt. Col. Eufracio Malig, Jr., commander of the PA’s 47th Infantry Battalion, the two suspects who were charged along with alleged SPARU leader Alvin Fortaliza for the twin murders were likely to still be in Bohol.
Fortaliza was arrested by heavily armed police personnel on Monday while he was putting up posters and distributing leaflets in Guindulman with his fellow Anakpawis members.
“Matagal na hinahanap yang mga yan…Pero syempre mahaba yung proseso magsasampa pa ng kaso, mga witness muna magbigay ng affidavit. Nahuli na yung isa, so hopefully later on yung dalawa naman,” said Malig.
Fortaliza and his cohorts were charged with murder over the killings of CAFGU (Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit) members Erwin Paulino Banga in Bilar on March 28, 2018 and Edwin Bugahod in Batuan on May 16, 2018.
Malig said that Fortaliza and the other suspects were seen on closed-circuit television camera (CCTV) footage taken during the attack of Bugahod.
“Kasama siya [Alvin Fortaliza] doon sa two others na magkakaangkas. Sa Batuan yata yung nasa CCTV pero the same team yan sila yung March at May,” he added.
In an earlier interview, Malig confirmed to the Chronicle that Fortaliza and the two other suspects are alleged members of SPARU.
“Yung pumatay sa dalawang CAFGU ay mga SPARU eh. Si [Alvin] ang suspect pero may others pa yan kasi may other personalities na kasama siya,” he said.
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.
According to Humabol, its Deputy secretary general, Nelson Lumantas, was also slapped with “poorly concocted” murder charges last year over an incident that happened almost 20 years ago.
“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. (AD)