By JIGGER J. JERUSALEM
AN armed group, believed to be members of the New People’s Army (NPA), stormed a construction firm and burned one of its vehicles in Barangay Cabangahan, Malaybalay City, Bukidnon, early morning yesterday.
A report said the attackers burned a small truck parked at the field office of Venray Construction Corp. at around 2:30 am.
Lt. Col. Al Abanales, Malaybalay city police chief, said the assailants held a company watchman at gunpoint before dousing the truck with gasoline and setting it on fire.
Abanales said the attackers did not meet any resistance from residents, although it was reported that the construction company’s workers drove away the rebels even before they could inflict more harm.
The same report, however, did not explain in detail how the armed group was resisted and eventually, supposedly driven away by the workers.
The armed group immediately fled on motorcycles after setting the truck on fire, Abanales said.
It is unclear how many fighters were involved in the attack at presstime.
“It’s public knowledge that most villages across the region do not welcome the NPA in their communities. Some of them have signed a manifesto declaring NPA as persona non grata (sic) in their areas. That’s why it doesn’t come as a surprise that the people held to repel the attack,” said Col. Surki Sereñas, Camp Alagar spokesperson.
The military has condemned the destruction of civilian properties by the NPA.
“The NPA has already done a series of atrocities toward innocent civilians not just in Bukidnon, but in other parts of the country as well,” said Brig. Gen. Edgardo de Leon, the Army’s 403rd Brigade commander.
He said the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the National Democratic Front (NDF) leadership must explain why they could not discipline their members on the ground and why the rebels have been attacking civilians who have nothing to do with the armed conflict.
In light of the NPA attacks, de Leon has called on human rights group such as Karapatan to act on these abuses.
“We call on [Karapatan] which claims to be a citizens’ watchdog that monitors [international humanitarian law] violations, to do a parallel investigation to determine if the NPA indeed violated IHL in this particular incident or not,” the general said.
For his part, Maj. Gen. Franco Nemesio Gacal, 4th Infantry Division commander, said, “We are very thankful to the workers’ courageous act of shooing away the NPA terrorists to prevent their equipment from being destroyed and for the quick response of [Bureau of Fire Protection] responders.”
The incident, Gacal said, proves that rebels “are no match to people who unite and resist, even if the people are unarmed.”
The military said the NPA rebels could face appropriate cases.
The Regional Trial Court Branch 25 based here was designated as the special court to handle IHL-related cases.
Recently, the NPA has claimed responsibility for the series of incidents, including the recent strafing of village watchmen in Barangay Sto. Niño, Manolo Fortich and for the detonation of anti-personnel mines in Impasugo-ong, Bukidnon that hit a convoy of vehicles carrying a group of foreign nationals who came to observe the tribal best practices in the area.
In the past, the NPA has been known to torch vehicles and equipment belonging to multinational corporations operating mostly in Bukidnon.