DAVAO CITY – Families of the nine men who were arrested in the March 10 raid of a Davao del Sur police station insisted on the innocence of the men and that they were not members of the New People’s Army.
Grace Orot, 39, wife of Renante Orot, said her husband was “not an NPA, much more participate in a gunfight”.
“We are together for 16 years now and there is not a day that he does not come home to us. How can he be an NPA?” said Grace in a press conference yesterday.
Grace said that barangay officials from their hometown in General Santos City even suggested to her “to bring a whole sitio of their neighbors to testify, if needed”.
“He has been a driver for about 15 years. We were even out till early morning of that day (March 10), he didn’t have any sleep,” she said.
When Grace saw her husband in last March 11, she said Renante “cried like a child.”
“He is pale. He is still in shock. We were not able to talk long but he said he doesn’t know why they were arrested,”she said.
Grace said Renante “is not the type who gets into trouble.”
“What hurts us is that they were immediately called NPAs. A radio commentator said he is an NPA. That is not true at all, he doesn’t even know how to hold a gun,” she said.
Vivian, wife of Laudimer Gama, said that her husband is a truck driver for already 15 years.
“He left our house in Polomolok at about 5:00 am,” she said.
Vivian said his husband brought with him other identification cards aside from his license but these were still not returned to him.
“He did not participate in what the NPA did and he is not a member of the NPA. Please release him, he is innocent,” she said.
Ryan Lariba, secretary general of Bayan Socsksargen (South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Saranggani, General Santos), said that they demanded an “unconditional release” for the nine who are “clearly civilians.”
Lariba said they already provided legal aid to the families and the arrested individuals and launched the “Free Matanao 9 Movement to give them a voice so that the public may know.”
Meanwhile, Dencio Madrigal, spokersperson of the NPA’s Valentine Palamine Command who claimed responsibility for the raid, said the nine were “hapless civilians who were on their way to attend a sitio fiesta at Barangay Savoy, Matanao, when they were illegitimately accosted.”
Madrigal said the nine were “Renante Urot, Joey Alberca, Rufoboy Gama, Laudemer Gama, Noel Morangit, Roger Natonton, Julio Sales, John Rey Pabillo and Christopher Sales.”
The Davao del Sur Criminal Investigation and Detection Group Command Chief Inspector Arvin Avelino said the nine were charged with two counts of murder, three counts of frustrated murder, robbery in band and malicious mischief. (John Rizle L. Saligumba/davaotoday.com)