By NITZ ARANCON
OPOL, Misamis Oriental–Tension gripped outlying villages of this town over the prospects of fresh fightings between government and rebel forces after a New People’s Army group encamped at a farm in Barangay Nangkaon near Bukidnon and Lanao del Norte.
Opol Mayor Maximino Seno said some 73 families or about 348 people have evacuated so far to the town proper, and he feared that more would flee Nangkaon and its neighboring villages of Tingalan and Kaoyonan.
The Nangkaon villagers fled their homes on Monday and reached the town center at around 6 pm. They are now being housed at the Visual Building of Opol.
Seno said barangay officials of Tingalan and Kaoyonan have informed him that more people were preparing to evacuate for fear of skirmishes.
He said initial reports indicate that there were at least 100 battle-ready rebels that set up camp in Nangkaon.
Seno said the military and police have confirmed to him that the heavily armed men in Nangkaon were Moist rebels who operated in Bukidnon under the NPA’s Mt. Kitanglad Command.
The 4th Infantry Division has fielded soldiers from Lanao del Sur to beef up government troops sent to undertake “clearing operations” in Opol’s outlying villages, Seno said.
He said the evacuees would stay and be taken care of at the town center, and would not be sent home until the military gave a clearance.
“Dinhi lang una sila sa atong evacuation area,” he said.
Chief Insp. Randy Anito, Opol police chief, said Camp Alagar sent a reinforcement from its Regional Public Safety Battalion to Barangay Bagogbok which is near Nangka-on.
The provincial police, he said, also fielded the Misamis Oriental Public Safety Company from Villanueva town.
Anito said the instruction ws for the police officers to step up securiity operations in barangays Bagogbok and Tingalan.
One of those who evacuated, Nangkaon barangay councilor Jennis Mangconsay, said, “Nahadlok kami, nga basin ma-ipit kon mag-encounter sila. Mibakwit nalang kami.”
Another barangay councilor, Jobert Madrina, said the rebels occupied a farm house owned by one Barik Puasan.
Madrina said rebels harassed villagers, including his neighbors Kiking Baragot and one Narfel.
“Kinsa may dili mahadlok ana nga nani-on na man sila sa pusil? Alang alang naghulat pa kami nga mapusilon nila. Di bakwit na lang mi,” Madrina said.
In a statement, the capitol said it would sent aid for the evacuees once information about the 73 families have been validated by the Opol town government’s disaster risk reduction and management office.
Gov. Yevgeny Vincente Emano said the capitol was waiting for town government to transmit the validation report to the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office.
“This can only be our intervention. As to the investigation of the incident, we leave it to our Philippine Army and the Philippine National Police considering that we are still under martial rule,” reads part of Emano’s statement.