NPA ‘not behind’ banana plantation attack

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Monday, July 21, 2014


THE New People’s Army (NPA) rebels were not responsible for attacking a banana plantation in the municipality of Pangantucan in Bukidnon last week, a provincial police official said Sunday.

Contrary to earlier reports, authorities in the province have clarified the perpetrators of the incident were local bandits and not the leftist insurgents.

Around 2 a.m. Friday, a group of about 10 men raided Sumiso Inc., a Japanese-owned banana grower at Sitio Holano, Barangay Bacusanon in Pangantucan. The perpetrators burned down a small SK240 backhoe and cut down 736 banana plants of the firm.

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The group identified as Akuman is composed of robbers who hail only from the local community, Inspector Joanne Galvez, Bukidnon provincial police office (PPO) spokesperson, told Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro by phone Sunday afternoon.

Authorities mistook the local bandits as members of the Maoist rebels following the torching of a warehouse and a bunker of Kiantig Development Corporation in Barangay San Jose, Quezon town, Bukidnon last July 15 that left two workers dead and P1.5 million worth of damage.

In their investigation, Galvez said a Benjamin Tan, the Filipino partner of the Japanese company, received extortion letters last week of May and first week of July this year.

"The owner [Tan] refused to give money that prompted the robbers to cut down the bananas and burned the backhoe," Galvez said.

She added that “to threaten” the owners could be the only reason of the attack since no properties have been carted away, not even the banana fruits, by the suspects.

The police identified only one member of Akuman, a certain Ramil Bahian. The number of the attackers has remained unknown.

"This is actually not the first time they did this. One of them [Akuman] was identified based on the pictures in our rogues gallery," Galvez said.

Akuman's targets, according to Galvez, are the land and plant owners in the outskirt of Pangantucan. Sitio Holano is 20 kilometers away from the municipal proper.

Bukidnon police is now coordinating with local law enforcers for the capture of the perpetrators.

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on July 21, 2014.

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