BUTUAN CITY (MindaNews / 21 Feb) – Some 20 fully armed men who claimed to be members of the New People’s Army (NPA) raided Tuesday morning the home of an environmental activist in Carmen, Surigao del Sur and carted away high-powered firearms.
Dr. Isidro Olan, executive director of Lovers of Nature Foundation, Inc., who survived a near-death assassination attempt October last year, was again confronted with fear after fully armed men appeared outside his house in Barangay Puyat around 7:30 a.m.
“I was afraid that what happened last year was going to happen again,” he said. The environmentalist narrated that his wife Olive, together with their helpers, was cooking outside when the armed men suddenly appeared.
She was close to the door so she was able to run inside and lock the door, but the helpers were left outside, said Olan.
The staunch environmental advocate pointed out that the group claimed they were NPA members and that they meant no harm and only wanted his firearms. “They already had the caliber .22 rifle from one of my men’s outside, and demanded I turn over more. I gave them my 12-gauge shotgun, and then they insisted I also turn over my AR-15 Baby Armalite,” Olan said.
When the armed men threatened to burn down Olan’s vehicle, he said he was afraid that they might harm hiss family, and so he gave in.
Olan added that while the entire situation was going on, his wife managed to call the police and the nearby detachment of the Special Cafgu Active Auxiliary (SCAA) stationed about 250 meters from their house.
“But the NPA realized that we asked for help, so they told us to ask those we called to back down or else they would be forced to use bombs. I then called the SCAA not to proceed since I feared there might be further bloodshed on my behalf. I just want everything to end peacefully,” he added.
The day after, Olan said he managed to talk to the NPA through mobile phone and aired his disbelief regarding the incident.
“They claimed that they raided my home because of the complaints of others that I was very strict in not allowing people inside the 40-hectare reforestation project area. I explained to them that these people are cutting trees illegally. I worked so hard to reforest these areas, planted different varieties of trees and yet these people will just come and cut them down,” said Olan.
He then asked that they should have at least verified the complaints before rushing into conclusions.
The NPA, according to Olan, then promised on the phone never to bother him again. Senior Insp. Dominador Plaza stated that they are closely investigating the incident.
“We can confirm that it was the NPA who raided his home. But we believe that they were just after the firearms. We wanted to file charges against the group but Dr. Olan requested not to pursue with the filling. The provincial police director already advised him to transfer his residence away from the hinterlands of Barangay Puyat and closer to the town proper,” said Plaza. (Erwin Mascariñas / MindaNews)