RPOC-Northern Mindanao condemns NPA; Election security heightened

THE Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) in Northern Mindanao issued a resolution condemning the New People's Army (NPA) for destroying a civilian-owned farming equipment in Bukidnon.

As this developed, police and military continue to deploy personnel to heighten the security measures as election nears.

The RPOC-Northern Mindanao, a multi-agency and multi-sectoral body chaired by Cagayan de Oro City Mayor Oscar Moreno, unanimously approved the resolution of condemnation during its full council meeting last week.

The resolution called on the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) leadership "to direct its armed wing, the NPA, to stop attacking civilians and to cease from destroying civilian properties."

From January to March, the 4th Infantry Division (4ID) said a band of NPA rebels claimed responsibility for taking "military offensive" on civilian farms in Bukidnon.

The resolution called such acts of terrorism, disrespectful, and a violation of the International Humanitarian Law (IHL).

The Army said a banana plantation of Dole Philippines in Barangay Lilingayon, Valencia City, Bukidnon was raided by armed communist insurgents on January 25. The rebels torched an agricultural boom truck and cut approximately 8,000 banana trees.

A certain Malem Mabini and Dereka Magtanggol, who introduced themselves over radio interviews as spokespersons of the CPP-NPA's North Central Mindanao Regional Committee (NCMRC), claimed responsibility for the attack.

A similar attack on a civilian compound happened on March 15 in Don Carlos, Bukidnon. The NPA swooped in on the plantation of Davao Agricultural Ventures Corporation (Davco), destroying a harvesting machine and two backhoes.

"One of the backhoes is owned by a farmers' cooperative Nagkahiusang Mag-uuma Agrarian Reform Cooperative (Namarco). Again, NPA spokespersons claimed responsibility over the attack. Namarco farmers are demanding indemnification from the CPP-NPA for destroying their means of livelihood," the Army said.

Major General Franco Nemesio Gacal, 4ID commander, said the NPA's recent attack on civilians and civilian properties is a clear manifestation that the CPP-National Democratic Front (NDF) failed to control, discipline, and sanction the NPA.

"Through the RPOC as a multisectoral and multi-agency body, the people of Region 10 (Northern Mindanao) has spoken. The NPA should listen to the people's call for them to stop attacking civilians and to stop destroying civilian properties," he said.

"The CPP and the NDF, which represented the NPA in an agreement with the government to respect IHL, must prove its leadership over the NPA. The CPP-NDF wants to resume the peace talks, but it has yet to prove having effective control over the NPA. The CPP-NDF must first show that they can direct the NPA to stop attacking civilians in order to prove that they are worth negotiating with," Gacal added.

Election security deployment

Meanwhile, the 4ID has assured that the conduct of midterm elections in Northern Mindanao on Monday, May 13, will remain unhampered, unthreatened and undisrupted.

In a statement, the military said it has tasked one brigade and six battalions composed of nearly 3,000 personnel to secure polling areas across the region. They will complement the more than 8,000 policemen to be deployed by the Northern Mindanao police.

Brigadier General Tyne Banas, 4ID assistant division commander, said the military is confident that the midterm elections will not be disrupted by any threat group, partisan armed groups and other lawless elements because of the security measures that are put in place in collaboration with other law enforcement agencies.

"The 4ID and PRO-Northern Mindanao are ready to respond to any eventualities that may arise. We will not allow any threat groups or individuals to disrupt or sabotage the electoral process so that the people of Northern Mindanao will be able to freely exercise their right to suffrage," Banas said.

Military and police officials said contingency plans were laid down during the final coordinating conference conducted by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) at Camp Alagar, to ensure readiness of their personnel to respond to any untoward incidents in the provinces of Bukidnon, Misamis Oriental, Misamis Occidental, Camiguin and Lanao del Norte.

The Comelec said the role of the security sector, including all law enforcement agencies, is crucial in ensuring a peaceful, honest and credible election in the region.


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