BACOLOD CITY - The government has offered a P5-million reward for the capture of priest-turned-rebel Frank Fernandez, a ranking official of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army (CPP-NPA) in Negros Island, the military said.
Captain Mark Andrew Posadas, Army regional spokesperson, on Monday said Fernandez, secretary of the CPP-NPA Komiteng Rehiyonal-Negros, was facing rebellion and multiple counts of murder in court, with no bail recommended.
Under the leadership of Fernandez, Posadas said, communist guerrillas in Negros executed 90 people.
Seventeen of the killings took place from January to October this year, according to the 303rd Infantry Brigade.
Colonel Jonas Sumagaysay, 303rd IB commander, also said Monday many of the killings were perpetrated by the Special Partisan Unit, a liquidation squad of the New People's Army.
Many of the victims were civilians and former rebels who gave up life in the hills, Sumagaysay said.
Fernandez's group also was behind attacks on Victorias Milling Co., mining firms and sugarcane planters who refused to pay revolutionary taxes, said Sumagaysay.
"This only proves that the NPA is actually the number one human-rights violator in Negros Island," said the colonel.
Sumagaysay said the CPP has been maintaining death squads to strike terror into the hearts of people who refuse to cooperate with guerrillas.
The National Democratic Front, the umbrella group of underground leftist organizations, tried to mask the atrocities as revolutionary justice, he said.
In a statement, Fernandez said a guerrilla court in Negros had issued arrest warrants for several Army commanders in Central Visayas that the rebels tagged as responsible for extra-judicial killings.
Two soldiers of the 61st Infantry Battalion have been tagged as suspects in the killing of Bayan Muna member Benjamin Bayles in Himamaylan City. They are now facing murder charges in court.
Sumagaysay said the Army was willing to cooperate with the court if soldiers were, indeed, involved in extrajudicial killings.
The P5-million reward offer for Fernandez's capture followed the turnover to an informant of P5 million for the capture of Randal Echanis, who was tagged as a member of the central committee of the CPP.
Echanis, who also faces multiple murder charges in Leyte, was arrested last year in Bago City in Negros Occidental.
The NDF protested the arrest recently of what it said was its peace consultant, Eduardo Sarmiento, and four other political prisoners-Dario Tomada, Vincent Borja, Paterno Opo and Jaime Soledad.
In a statement, Fr. Santiago Salas, NDF Eastern Visayas spokesperson, said the release of the five would be taken as a gesture of goodwill on the part of the Aquino administration.
Sarmiento was arrested on February 24 last year in Manila and is currently detained at the police headquarters in Camp Crame.
Borja, Tomada, Opo and Soledad were arrested separately after they were linked to the deaths of supposed victims of NPA executions whose remains were found in a mass grave in Inopacan, Leyte in 2006. -The Inquirer Network/ANN