FOUR policemen of the Binuangan, Misamis Oriental municipal police station were wounded after members of the communist New People’s Army (NPA) attacked the facility early Sunday morning, December 3, a police official said.
Wounded in action were the Binuangan town police chief Senior Inspector Dante Hallazgo, Senior Police Officer 1 Ramonito Zambas, Police Officer 3 Alberto Bernadas, and Police Officer 1 Joshua Satur.
Police Regional Office (PRO)-Northern Mindanao spokesperson Superintendent Lemuel Gonda said the four policemen were hit by shrapnel from the M203 rifle grenade used by the NPA rebels during the attack.
He said only Bernadas was confined at the hospital, as the rest were already in stable condition.
He said the gun fight started around 3:15 a.m. and lasted at least 20 minutes. The NPA fighters flagged down motorists and staged road blocks and subsequently launched the attacks.
“Then after that, ‘yung tinawag na ang tactical movement. Putok dito, putok doon, naghihintay, pakiramdaman hanggang sa umalis na ang mga kalaban (We called the tactical movement while gunshots rang out. Then we waited until the enemies left),” Gonda said.
Gonda said they have yet to establish whether there were casualties among the rebels.
Police said the attackers were members of the NPA Guerilla Front 4B led by a certain Manuelito "Ka Musong" Satur and alias Jakem; and Platoon ADA led by Oscar Romania, alias Amboy, and Platoon PPH led by Alias Makong Mansigyaw.
But the NPA’s East Misamis Oriental North Eastern Bukidnon Sub-regional command owned up the attack at the police station.
In a statement, the NPA said the incident was a reminder to the government forces and the Duterte administration that the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) is unfazed of the "all-out war" and the martial law, which "victimizes the powerless masses."
The NPA insisted that the group responsible for the attack are now safe, with zero casualty.
But Gonda said the NPA combatants failed to seize the firearms of the policemen who bravely fought hard to defend the station. The Maoist guerillas pulled back and withdrew from the area onboard two forward trucks, he added.
“Possibly, the NPA rebels have forcibly taken or carnapped two forward trucks as get away vehicles,” Gonda said.
Recovered from the site were monotov bombs, three M203, two garsole grenade and fully loaded magazine of AK47, and subversive documents.
Gonda said pursuit operations against the NPA guerrillas were ongoing.
He said the PRO-Northern Mindanao has been anticipating NPA offensives following the termination of the peace talks.
He said all police stations and units have been on alert to ward off all NPA attacks and offensives.
"Kung nagtulog-tulog 'tong mga police, dili gyud to sila kabalos. Mando man nga kanunay mangandam ug magbantay ang atong kapolisan (If they were sleeping, they could have not retaliated. The police were ordered to be on alert always),” Gonda said.
Immediately after the incident, Regional Police Director Timoteo Taclob issued a directive to all police personnel in Northern Mindanao to strengthen their target-hardening security measures to prevent such an attack from happening again.
He said they received information that the NPA, recently branded as terrorists by President Rodrigo Duterte, were planning to attack police stations in their areas following the cancellation of all the scheduled meetings in the Netherlands with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) in relation to the peace talks.
Duterte’s decision stemmed from the recent attacks made by the NPA, particularly against the military and police.
"Before pa lang, nung peace talks pa lang, nag-declare na yung CPP-NPA-NDF ng offensive operation against the military and municipal police stations (Even before the peace talks, the CPP-NPA-NDF declared an offensive operations against military and municipal police stations)," Gonda said.
The NPA is the armed wing of the CPP, while the National Democratic Front is the political wing and represented the communists in the scrapped peace talks.
"So ang hamon sa atin dito, dapat walang maka-atake kaya [pinapalakas] yung target-hardening security measures (The challenge now is how to strengthen our target-hardening security measures so that we are not vulnerable to attacks)," Gonda added.
The Army's 4th Infantry Division (4ID), for its part, said the failed terror attack is a big slap to the NPA leadership.
“We condemn the terrorists’ courses of action when they used the civilian properties such as vehicles along the highway and the nearby houses as their shield. This is a clear and undeniable proof that they really don’t care about the safety of the masses. All they wanted to do is to sow fear to advance their terroristic activities that are aimed to make people suffer,” it said.
Government troops maintained that the NPA may strike more assaults following the end of the peace negotiations. (SunStar Cagayan de Oro/SunStar Philippines)