Police, Army in pursuit operation vs rebels-A A +A
Wednesday, February 20, 2013
JOINT police and military forces are conducting pursuit and combat operation against communist rebels who simultaneously attacked the plantation office and truck yard of Del Monte Philippines in Camp Phillips and Dole-Stanfilco in Impasug-ong, Bukidnon Tuesday evening.
Chief Superintendent Catalino Bagaslao Rodriguez Jr., Philippine National Police (PNP) regional director, said Wednesday that the situation is now under control but authorities are still conducting hot pursuit operation and investigation on the incident.
Rodriguez said they already have cartographic sketches of the perpetrators, based on the account of the witnesses.
“I am asking the citizens to cooperate with the police and military para hindi na maulit ang ganitong pangyayari dahil malaki ang effect nito sa economy at tourism natin,” he said.
Since Tuesday’s attack, Rodriguez said government forces are now providing security at Del Monte’s main camp in Bukidnon and at its packing office in Bugo, Cagayan de Oro.
“But we are monitoring any security threat not only in Bugo but other vital installations,” he said.
Cagayan de Oro City Police Office (Cocpo) Police Director Graciano Mijares said the PNP raised a full alert status in the entire region following the attack.
Allan Juanito, spokesperson of the NPA’s North Central Mindanao Regional Command, confirmed that rebels belonging to the Mt. Kitanglad Sub-regional Command launched the “coordinated and simultaneous attack” on Del Monte and Dole-Stanfilco on Tuesday around 6 p.m.
In a statement sent through email to Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro, Juanito said the New People’s Army (NPA) rebels simultaneously attacked the motor pool and administration building and damaged the company’s equipment inside its main camp in Camp Phillips and its satellite camp in Besavilla, Sumilao town.
He said the rebels also seized the firearms of the security guards of Dole-Stanfilco-La Fortuna Plantation in La Fortuna, Impasug-ong town.
Juanito said based on initial report from the field operations command, the rebels damaged at least nine heavy equipment.
He admitted that the rebels also stormed two warehouses and office of Del Monte’s satellite camp in Besavilla and seized 19 assorted firearms and computer sets.
“This simultaneous and coordinated military operation is a forthright statement that the revolutionary movement is determined in meting out punitive actions against the giant agribusiness companies for exploiting and oppressing the workers, peasants and Lumads, and seriously ravaging the environment. After a series of killer typhoons wrought havoc to the hapless victims, the culpability of the environmentally-destructive operations of logging, agribusiness and mining companies is repeatedly exposed. Now is the time to serve justice to the victims of these man-made calamities,” Juanito said.
A security guard identified as Alfredo Neri belonging to Kadre Security Agency died while two other guards were wounded during the attack.
Neri succumbed to two gunshot wounds on his upper right torso.
A civilian identified as Mario Ayuban was also wounded in the encounter.
Superintendent Bimbo Jumalon, chief of Manolo Police Station, said they were on their way to the area from a conference when the rebels blocked their patrol car and took his 9mm pistol, including an M16 and M14 armalites.
“Gipakanaog mi sa mobile car ug gipahapa mi dayon gikuha ang among armas, mao nga wala na gyud mi nakasukol,” Jumalon said in an interview with dxIF Bombo Radyo.
Ramon Velez, senior manager of Del Monte Philippines, said the rebels burned three heavy equipment units and a personnel bus parked inside the Del Monte truck yard, and attempted to torch field equipment parked at Del Monte’s nearby plantation office.
Reports also said the NPA rebels allegedly blocked Atugan bridge in Impasug-ong town using a bus owned by Rural Transit of Mindanao Inc. and held military and police authorities who were supposed to provide reinforcement.
Spikes were also scattered in the national highway, affecting some passing vehicles.
After the attack, the rebels withdrew toward Barangay Dahilayan and brought along Dahilayan village chief Wenilio P. Sahonlay and four other civilians.
Lieutenant Colonel Eugene Osias, spokesperson of the 4th Infantry Division (4ID) of the Philippine Army, said the attack has something to do with the extortion activities of the NPA to big companies, particularly Del Monte and Dole.
Osias said since September 2011, the rebels have been sending extortion letters to Del Monte but the company refused to give in to their demand.
But Jorge Madlos, alias Ka Oris, spokesperson of the National Democratic Front-Mindanao, denied in earlier radio interviews that the movement is demanding for revolutionary taxes from Del Monte.
“Wala namo gikinahanglan ilang kwarta. Ang among hangyo lang nga mo evacuate sila,” he said.
Ka Oris said the main target of the coordinated attack was the equipment and main office of Del Monte Philippines.
“This is to send a message and to demand for Del Monte to stop their operation tungod kay sila ang dakong hinungdan sa kadaut nga nahiagoman sa katawhan gikan kang Sendong. Ang main cause sa delubyo sa Sendong mao ang logging ug gidugangan sa pineapple plantation. Ang mga loggers wala na diha, apan ang padayon nga nagpabilin mao ang dako nga kumpanya sama sa Del Monte ug Dole. What the NPAs did is to give justice to all victims of Sendong,” Ka Oris said.
He said the rebels took along Sahonlay as he is allegedly a military asset in the area.
He said the rebels later released Sahonlay.
Ka Oris did not confirm the number of NPAs but said “enough to launch a simultaneous attack in both the plantation of Del Monte and Dole.”
He said the attack would not be the first as the revolutionary movement is planning to launch more attacks to Del Monte and Dole in the future if they still won’t stop their operation.
He added they were saddened about the reported death of a security guard.
“Gikasubo kaayo namo. Dili man unta angay mamatay ang walay labot. Pero kaning Kadre mga abusado, mga bangis nga mga security guard ug tungod kay nisukol man sila,” he said.
Ka Oris also asked for understanding for those who were stranded in the national highway.
“Among ihangyo nga unta masabtan ninyo nga kabahin kini sa operation aron mababagan dayon ang military reinforcement. Wala kini gihimo aron madisturbo mo kung dili kabahin kini sa operasyon,” he said.
Ka Oris said that burning the equipment of Del Monte is the only practical way to stop the operations of the company even just for a few days.
He said Del Monte and Dole should stop its land grabbing and suppressive activities, including land conversion.
For Velez, the company is unaware of the reasons why NPA rebels attacked their plantation office and truck yard.
“It is unfortunate that this incident happened and we are unaware of the reasons why the rebels committed such acts of violence,” he said in a statement.
Velez said Del Monte has been operating in Bukidnon for the last 87 years and has provided gainful employment to over 20,000 people across 10 municipalities.
“Del Monte has undertaken numerous socio-civic projects that continue to improve the lives of many families in the province,” the company said.
Libona Mayor Leonardo Genesis Calingasan said in a radio interview that thousands of people will lost their jobs if Del Monte will be closed down.
“With due respect to Ka Oris, Del Monte has given jobs to thousands of people in Bukidnon and if the company will be closed down, thousands will lost their job,” Calingasan said. (Terry Betonio/Annabelle L. Ricalde)
Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on February 21, 2013.