Rebels raid military outpost; 5 killed, 5 wounded-A A +A
Monday, September 23, 2013
FIVE people were killed and five others were wounded when communist rebels attacked a military outpost in Balingasag, Misamis Oriental Sunday dawn, the New People’s Army (NPA) confirmed Monday.
NPA spokesperson Jorge “Ka Oris” Madlos said a soldier and five members of the Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit (Cafgu) were among the casualties.
Five militiamen were also injured in the fight, while the assailants sustained no casualties, he added.
Authorities identified those killed in action as Sergeant Dante Laon, commander of the patrol base, and Cafgu members Jonel Tandayon, Miguel Lugar, Ali Saguiway and Mauli Bacus.
The attack happened in Sitio Lantad, Barangay Kibanban in Balingasag while the community was still asleep. It caught soldiers and Cafgu men by surprise, as they only managed to duck for cover, said Madlos in a radio interview Monday.
The rebels, he added, withdrew and grabbed about 16 high-powered firearms from the military’s patrol base.
Madlos said 50 to 60 armed rebels tied some of the Cafgus after they torched the outpost, which quickly burned since it was made of light materials.
Captain Christian Uy, spokesperson of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division in Camp Evangelista, Patag, confirmed the number of casualties from the government side, but disproved Madlos’ statement that there were no casualties on the NPA’s side.
Uy said responding troops saw bloodstains in areas were the rebels positioned themselves when both groups exchanged gun fires.
He clarified that the soldiers returned fire at the rebels and did not just fall to the ground.
Due to abuses
Madlos said the attack stemmed from alleged abuses that the military in the area committed against the residents there.
He cited the delayed release of stipend of the Cafgu Active Auxiliary (CAA) by the military, and that residents have less freedom of movement in the area due to tight security.
Madlos said the honorariums could have been pocketed by high-ranking officials of the military.
He said these issues were raised following a recent mass meeting with the NPA leaders and residents in Lantad.
But Uy also denied this, citing CAA’s compensation has to undergo processes, which could be the reason for its delay.
Village of hope
Uy accused the guerrillas of staging the “cowardly attack.”
“They went from house to house and hogtied civilians, especially those identified to be supporting the peace and development of the area before firing at the security forces assigned in the area,” he said in a statement.
Sitio Lantad was dubbed as “Village of Hope” in 2005 as it symbolized the cooperation of the military and the local government in curbing insurgency. A military outpost was established in the area to maintain peace and order.
Meanwhile, Senior Superintendent Bernard Mendoza, intelligence officer of the provincial police office, clarified that only one person went missing after the attack, contrary to earlier report of six.
As of Monday afternoon, Mendoza confirmed that a certain Corporal Hassan, patrol base assistant commander, was taken by the armed rebels but he was released somewhere in San Luis, Agusan del Sur.
“We do not have yet validation that six were missing. What we know is that only one was missing but later released,” Mendoza said.
No more POWs
Mendoza also confirmed that one of those wounded is presently confined at the Northern Mindanao Medical Center (NMMC).
But the rebels said they did not get any soldier or a Cafgu member from Lantad raid.
Omar Ibarra, spokesperson of Western Agusan Norte-Agusan Sur (NPA-Wanas) sub-regional command, said they released Corporal Salman Abas in San Luis town in Agusan del Sur on Sunday, September 22.
Abas was held captive since August 8 until his release. He is the assistant cadreman of the CAA-Army detachment in San Luis.
“There are no more prisoners of war in the region,” Ibarra said.
Mendoza said the Philippine National Police (PNP) was already aware through an intelligence report that came out two or three months ago that Misamis Oriental is under threat by the NPA.
“The threat is ongoing and most of their targets are military and PNP patrol bases and detachments, and even vital government installations in the province,” he said.
Mendoza said there are more than 1,000 Cafgu militias spread throughout Misamis Oriental and patrol bases in remote areas in the province.
He said the Lantad outpost was overran due to the number of rebels that initiated the assault.
“Based on interview from the wounded Cafgus, they were attacked by more or less 60 armed rebels, who were joined by their comrades from Agusan del Sur,” Mendoza said.
He said the strength of the NPA has diminished in the recent years.
“They were strong in the early ‘80s. They are concentrating in the hinterland villages where there army patrols seldom reach. To get help from their comrades in the other province shows that their strength has diminished,” Mendoza added. (Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro/Sunnex)
Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on September 23, 2013.