THE chief of the Cagayan de Oro City Police Office (Cocpo) said Thursday, August 10, that there have been no sightings of communist rebels or any armed group in the hinterland villages of the city.
Cocpo Chief Senior Superintendent Robert Roy Bahian made the statement after ordering policemen to look into the reported presence of an armed group in Barangays San Simon and Tumpagon last Tuesday, August 8.
Task Force Oro, composed of soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division (4ID) and the police’s Regional Public Safety Battalion (RPSB), also conducted the combat patrol with the Cocpo to validate the reported sightings.
Chief Inspector Mardy Hortillosa II, Cocpo spokesperson, said residents of the villages reported seeing armed men across the Iponan river.
Hortillosa said the river separates the city barangays from the uptown villages of Opol, Misamis Oriental, where communist rebels were sighted.
"Ang ilang gisulti nga naay nakita pero tabok sa suba nga maoy boundary sa Opol pero wala katabok sa ato diri,"Hortillosa said.
Hortillosa said station commanders were also directed not to let their guard down and to continuously monitor the said areas to thwart possible violent activities that the armed group may sow to the communities.
"Cocpo will continuously work hand in hand with the local government, Philippine Army, Task Force Oro, and populace to protect the people of the city and maintain tranquility and peace and order in the area," Hortillosa said.
The police also urged the villagers to report to authorities any sighted presence of armed groups in their area through Cocpo hotline numbers: 0936-401-7888 or 0998-598-6972, so authorities could make immediate actions.
Meanwhile, Opol Mayor Max Seno said the evacuees from the four uptown villages of Opol, Misamis Oriental, may soon be able to go home.
Seno said the New People’s Army (NPA) combatants have presumably left the areas before the military conducted clearing operations in the villages of Limonda, Nangcaon, Tingalan and Cauyonan of said town.
The sightings of the rebel group in Cagayan de Oro’s neighboring areas had triggered the evacuation of at least 124 families or about 500 individuals on Monday, August 7, for fear of possible clashes with the government forces.
Seno said the number of evacuees on record remains the same as of Thursday, August 10.
"Wala nay nadugang sa mga evacuees unya ang military nag-ingon nga wala na gyud silay nakita so lagmit sa Sabado ipapauli na sila," Seno said.
Following the military report, the town's chief executive said he would wait for the village officials to confirm and decide whether the evacuees are already safe to return to their respective communities.
Seno said while the local government is giving the best comfort for the evacuees, he worries on the health of the children and the elderly if they stay longer at the evacuation center.
But Seno said the condition of the evacuees has been monitored by a stand-by medical team.
"Ingon ang military wala na silay nakita pero ingon pud ang barangay officials nga naay nagtuyok-tuyok kinsa man akong tuohan. Kung ma-clear sa military ug moingon ang mga kapitan nga safe na ugma (Friday), sa Sabado ipapauli na sila," Seno said.
"Lisod kaayo unyag mangasakit sila sa evacuation center, kita pay mabasol. Naa tay medical team. Ang fire department maoy gaatiman sa tubig,"Seno added.
Should there be no change of plans, the mayor would provide food packs for the evacuees as they return home.
The mayor said the town's two dump trucks will be utilized to transport the evacuees to their respective villages.
Seno said he would no longer ask the provincial government for transportation equipment or any form of help but said they would welcome if the capitol would initiate to assist and help the evacuees by their own ways and means.
"Akong plano pabalunan nako sila og food packs sa ilang pagpauli. Naa tay 2 ka dump truck maoy atong gamiton paghatod sa ila. Lisod na mangayo pa tag tabang sa kapitolyo unya balibaran kita. Maningkamot na lang mi sa amo. Pero kung gusto motabang ang kapitolyo gi-welcome nato na," Seno added.
Published in the SunStar Cagayan de Oro newspaper on August 11, 2017.