By LITO RULONA and EDWIN IYO
THE New People’s Army attack on the Bunuangan police station in Misamis Oriental on Sunday was carried out to avenge the 2012 killings of two rebels in a neighboring town.
The NPA group operating in eastern Misamis Oriental and northeastern Bukidnon has owned the responsibility for the attack that resulted in five officers, including the chief of the Binuangan town police, hurt.
Chief Supt. Timoteo Pacleb, police director for northern Mindanao, visited wounded policeman, PO3 Alberto Bernadas, in a Cagayan de Oro hospital yesterday even as he ordered all police offices in Region 10 to step up security measures. The policeman suffered leg wounds but has been declared safe. Other police officers were slightly wounded.
In a statement, NPA spokesperson Malem Mabini said the attack that resulted in a two-hour exchange of firepower was due to a five-year old “blood debt.”
According to Mabini, members of the Binuangan police served as reinforcement when troops carried out a bloody raid in the village of Ampianga, Sugbongcogon in Misamis Oriental, on Aug. 2, 2012.
Mabini said the rebel group was in that barangay to explain to villagers how the expansion of Del Monte Philippines to the area would adversely affect them.
Mabini said the raid resulted in the killing of two rebels during a fierce encounter — one was killed immediately while another was wounded and then allegedly finished off by reinforcing police officers.
The Sunday attack in Binuangan was also meant to sent a statement against the “sabotage” of the peace negotiations between the government and the National Democratic Front, said Mabini.
Mabini blamed President Duterte: “Gipakyas ni Duterte ang pangandoy sa katawhang Pilipino alang sa malahutayon ug makatarunganong kalinaw. Mas grabe pa, gibaharan pa niya ang mga ligal nga progresibong grupo pinaagi sa crackdown ug dinaghang pagpangdakop ug gideklarang ‘terorista’ ang nasudnon-demokratikong rebolusyonaryong kalihukan.”
Mabini said the attack in Binuangan was a show of force by the NPA.
Nicholas Marino, spokesperson of the National Democratic Front in northern Mindanao, said guerrillas from NPA Front 4B staged the attack, and the unit did not suffer casualties.
“The attack (was) a warning to the police and military that the NPA (does) not fear the threats of all-out war and Martial Law by the Duterte regime,” Marino said.
Police said the Sunday raid was carried out by a rebel group headed by Manuelito Satur a.k.a. Ka Musong and Ka Jakemm, Oscar Romania a.k.a. Amboy, and one Makong Mansigyaw.
Misamis Oriental police director Senior Supt. Rolando Destura said the town police stood their ground and fought the raiding guerrillas for two and a half hours.
Five officers were mostly slightly wounded. They were identified as PO3 Bernadas, SPO1 Ramonito Zambas, SPO4 Lorimer Cabil, PO1 Josua Satur, and thw town’s police chief, Senior Insp. Dante Hallazgo
Destura commended the Binuangan police for their “gallantry” and for their defense of their police station and the Binuangan town hall.
Destura claimed the police officers under Senior Insp. were attacked by “more or less 200” rebels at dawn Sunday. Hallazgo however said there were only some 70 raiders.
Police said the NPA rebels used two seized trucks in order to withdraw towards the direction of the village of Kitamban.
Authorities found at the encounter site Molotov bombs, five grenades, a fully loaded AK47 magazine, and documents.
Hallazgo said rebels attacked with the Molotov bombs but none found its way into the police station because of its windows screens.
The concrete police station and two parked police cars were riddled with bullets.
Vehicular traffic stood still as the NPA set up two barricades as early as 2:30 am before the attack on the police station. One was near the Lourdes Church at the town center and another one was in Nalaturan, also in the town center.
A public bus was flagged down by rebels near the Lourdes Church. Its 42 passengers, including the driver and his aide, were made to step down and go inside the church.
The bus and other vehicles were released at around 6 am Sunday.
There was a blackout as a 50-kv transformer of the Misamis Oriental II Rural Electric Service Cooperative burst apparently after being hit by bullets. The power supply was restored at 3 pm.
Binuangan Mayor Marcelo Abao said the entire town panicked as rebels and the police exchanged firepower.
Abao said it was the third NPA attack in the town in recent memory. The last time was in the ’80s, he said.
Abao said the incident caused a traffic jam. “Walay maka sulod o gawas sa area, only kadtong buros karga sa ambulance nakalusot human gitugutan sa NPA,” he said.
The Army’s 4th Infantry Division said the attack was anticipated.
“That (was) expected… they will undertake terror attacks in Misamis Oriental and Bukidnon…” in order to ease the pressure the NPA was undergoing due to military operations in Surigao del Sur, said Maj. Gen. Ronald Villanueva, 4th ID chief.
On Thursday, two ranking NPA rebels were killed in an encounter with soldiers in Surigao del Sur. (with reports from pna and mindanews)