BUTUAN CITY – Authorities arrested an alleged militiaman of the communist New People’s Army (NPA) in a law enforcement operation in the Surigao del Sur town of Lianga.

Brig. Gen. Joselito T. Esquivel Jr., Police Regional Office (PRO) 13 (Caraga) chief, said Thursday Eric G. Enriquez, 33, who also reportedly served as a supply courier, was arrested on Tuesday through a warrant of arrest issued by a regional court in Lianga for murder and attempted murder.

Enriquez is a member of the Militia ng Bayan (MB), a trusted contact and supply courier of the Weakened Guerrilla Front 19 (WGF-19) of Northeastern Mindanao Regional Committee (NMRC) of the NPA, Esquivel said.

He was arrested in Diatagon in Lianga by elements of the 3rd Special Forces Battalion (3SFBn), Regional Mobile Forces Battalion 13 (RMFB-13), Surigao del Sur Provincial Mobile Force Company, and Lianga municipal police station.

“Based on the intelligence report, Enriquez is also an active member of Malahutayong Pakigbisog Alang sa Sumusunod (Mapasu), an alleged CPP-NPA (Communist Party of the Philippines) affected organization in Surigao del Sur,” Esquivel said.

In a separate statement on Thursday, 1Lt. Krisjuper Andreo J. Punsalan, the civil-military operations officer of 3SFBn, said the area where Enriquez was arrested is a known rebel enclave.

Punsalan was specifically referring to the boundary between Sitio Han-ayan (Km. 16) in Diatagon, Lianga and Sitio Kabulohan, Barangay Buhisan, San Agustin, where Enriquez was arrested.

“An Indigenous People (IP) witness, who requested anonymity, said that wanted and terrorist personalities – to include communist-linked and militant group Mapasu leaders with standing warrants of arrests – are allegedly seeking refuge in Sitio Han-Ayan (Km. 16) and Sitio Kabulohan and are using civilians as human shields to evade government forces through ‘taktikang bakwit’ (evacuation tactic),” Punsalan said.

He noted that last March 19, Mapasu leader Gloria Campos Tumalon, who has standing warrants of arrest for arson, kidnapping, and serious illegal detention, was also arrested in the same area by a team of Army and PNP personnel.

Punsalan said Tumalon is the sister of Pablito Sinzo Campos and Imelda Campos Belandres, the NPA leaders who were arrested by authorities in Sibagat, Agusan del Sur back in 2018.

Brig. Gen. Allan D. Hambala, commander of the Army’s 401st Infantry Brigade, said several NPA personalities linked to Mapasu have been arrested following tipoffs received from residents in the area.

Tribal leader Hawudon Jomar S. Bucales, the Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representative (IPMR) of Lianga, also lauded the arrest of Enrique.

“We, in the IP tribal council fully support the government’s operations against Communist NPA Terrorists and their front groups within our ancestral lands to stop their abuse, exploitation, and killings of innocent IPs who refuse to give in to their violent armed struggle and ideology,” Bucales said.

Meanwhile, Punsalan said the military and other law enforcement agencies involved in the arrest of Enriquez and other NPA leaders in the area are expecting Bayan Muna Rep. Eufemia Campos Cullamat and her leftist allies to appeal to various media platforms to gain public sympathy.

“Expect that they will come out and accuse government forces with lies, such as an attack on the IPs and their communities. This tactic is one of their old playbooks to cover up their members when in fact that the arrest was conducted based on a legal and constitutional basis,” he said.

The NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. (Alexander Lopez/PNA)