CAGAYAN DE ORO (MindaNews/03 April) — In the run-up to the May 16 presidential elections, communist rebels staged simultaneous road blocks in five towns in three provinces in Northern Mindanao Sunday morning.
The military said rebels held hostage two off-duty policemen and three civilians in their road blocks in the towns of Talisayan in Misamis Oriental; and Impasug-ong in Bukidnon.
Talisayan town police chief Senior Inspector Cecilio Orcullo identified one of the policemen captured by the rebels as Senior Police Officer 4 Rene Rombo of the Kinoguitan town police in Misamis Oriental.
Orcullo said Rombo was riding his motorcycle on his way home in Medina town when the rebels set up a roadblock in Barangay Mandahilag, seven kilometers from the Talisayan town poblacion early Sunday morning.
He said the rebels distributed leaflets to startled motorists who were stopped in their roadblock in Barangay Mandahilag.
“The rebels left after 30 minutes to one hour and fled toward the hinterlands,” Orcullo said.
Orcullo said most of the rebels were wearing camouflage uniforms identical to those worn by soldiers and policemen.
He said this confused motorists who initially believed the rebels were real soldiers staging a checkpoint and did not report what they saw to authorities.
Aside from Rombo, NPA guerrillas also took hostage another policeman and three civilians at the roadblock they set up in Impasug-ong town in Bukidnon.
Col. Jesse Alvarez, commander of the Army 403rd Infantry Brigade said they are still checking the identities of the policemen and civilians the NPA held captive.
“People caught in the roadblock informed us the rebels told them they will release the civilians after they make good of their withdrawal,” Alvarez said.
Alvarez said the rebels also set up roadblocks in Manolo Fortich and Talakag towns in Bukidnon.
He said the rebel force that set up the roadblock in Barangay Tikalaan, Talakag town numbered around 60.
Alvarez said soldiers from the 23rd Infantry Brigade managed to catch up with some of the 30 rebels who set up a roadblock in Carmen town in Agusan del Sur.
An ensuing firefight was still going on as of 5 p.m.
Capt. Patrick Martinez, public information officer of the army 4th Infantry Division interpreted the NPA’s setting up of roadblocks as their way of reminding politicals to pay the permit-to-campaign fees they were demanding.
“The roadblocks were to show politicians the rebels are still a dangerous force if they do not pay campaign fees,” Martinez said.
Martinez said they estimated politicians pay the rebels as much P8 million during election time. (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)