In a press conference called to present alleged rebel returnees, the officials took turns in assuring that merry-making in the city's center will not be marred by fighting in nearby villages.
Sr. Supt. Noel Armilla, Bukidnon police director and Col. Danny Pabunan, deputy commander of the Army's 403rd Brigade, made the assurance when reminded about military operations against the New Peoples' Army last year as the Kaamulan 2007 festivities were held.
Pabunan even invited the rebels to attend the festivities. "They could come here. They will not be harmed as long as they are unarmed," he said.
He and Armilla also invited the rebels for “talks.”
In March 2007, the military attacked alleged NPA camps in the villages of Kiito and Tintinaan in Can-ayan barangay following the slaying of an evangelical pastor in the village and later a policeman at the gate of Camp Ramon Onahon, the police headquarter, in the city’s central district.
Armilla said he instructed Sr. Insp. Melvyn Valcorza, Malaybalay City PNP officer-in-charge, to deploy personnel to the police center in the Kaamulan grounds.
The Kaamulan Capitol compound, venue of the Kaamulan festivities, has been home to fairs, bazaars and other agriculture-based shows since Kaamulan opened on February 18. Big crowd drawer events are slated mainly on March 8, for the annual street dancing and float competitions and on March 10, the 91st anniversary of the founding of the province of Bukidnon.
At the press conference, the military presented six alleged members of the NPA who were either captured or who surrendered to them last month.
Three allegedly surrendered to the military in southern Bukidnon while another three were reportedly captured by soldiers in Libona town.
Military officials identified Rodrigo Fortaliza and alias "Sagayan" who reportedly surrendered to the Army's 29th Infantry Battalion on January 4 in Kitaotao town.
Fortaliza reportedly gave up an M14 rifle while Sagayan turned in a Garand rifle. Another man identified as Alfonso Cupay surrendered on January 17 and turned over another Garrand rifle.
All three claimed they were members of the NPA's Front Committee 53 operating in southern Bukidnon.
On the other hand, the other three who were reported captured were identified as Ronilo Laque, 25; Armien Jun Rabuya, 24 and Bryan Babion, 24 – all residents of Baungon.
They were reportedly arrested in Sitio Kalasoyan, Barangay Capehan in Libona town while allegedly delivering supplies on January 28. Soldiers reportedly recovered from their possession supplies, four cellular phones and firearms. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)