Dapecol knew but ignored threat

Major General Ernesto Boac, commanding officer of the Army's 10th Infantry Division said the Dapecol raid was an unfortunate event but prison security was alerted in February this year of intelligence reports the New Peoples Army was attacking DPPF.

Boac led his commanders and police officials in a press conference Tuesday prior to a joint assessment with the police of their operations. 

Boac said the penal colony was considered by the NPA as a soft target, identified as an institution that will not "offer firefight."

The Philippine National Police announced an extensive investigation on the incident.

Police C/Supt. Conrado Laza, Southeastern Mindanao police regional deputy-director denied the allegations the police had not coordinated with DPPF on the threats.

He said they supplied Dapecol with enough intelligence feed but added they have to have their own, too.   

He said they were already apprised of their status as included in the soft targets endangered of an NPA attack, based on intelligence reports.

S/Supt. Bienvenido Bianzon, Davao del Norte police chief, announced the activation of Task Force Dapecol, composite team including the National Bureau of Investigation for the probe.

Maj. Randolph Cabangbang, spokesperson of the EastMinCom told reporters at least 60 New People's Army (NPA) rebels raided the prison farm early Sunday morning for 20 minutes.

Bianzon said  total of 117 assorted firearms and 3,086 rounds of ammunition were taken. But Bianzon said 49 of the firearms were "unserviceable." 

In a press statement dated April 9 but sent to media outlets on April. 10, the Merardo Arce Command (MAC) of the NPA’s Southern Mindanao Regional Operations Command through spokersperon Rigoberto Sanchez said they got “105 long firearms, three short firearms” for a total of  108 firearms and “two handheld VHF radios and several rounds of ammunition.”

“This is one of the biggest haul of the NPA since its founding (on) March 29, 1969,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez added the raid was a “big slap in the face of the AFP-PNP and exposes weaknesses and futility of Oplan Bantay Laya II.”

The military claimed some 60 NPA guerrillas came for the raid. Sanchez said  a “tactical MAC-NPA platoon” entered the Dapecol compound at around 1:30 a.m. Easter Sunday and left 20 minutes later with the entire armory cleaned up. It is not clear what constitutes  a platoon for the NPA.

The statement claimed the NPA got “105 long firearms, three short firearms, two handheld VHF radios and several rounds of ammunition.”

“This is one of the biggest haul of the NPA since its founding in March 29, 1969,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez added that Dapecol security guards were not harmed “since they were completely neutralized and did not offer any resistance.”  He said the command-detonated explosive which was detonated at about 4 a.m. along a portion of a road “was not intended for any purpose other than to discourage and block any pursuit operation by the Armed Forces of the Philippines or Philippine National Police. As it was, no civilians were put in harm's way.”

Catalino Malinao, Dapecol superintendent, was relieved of his post and replaced by Menancio Tesoro as of Sunday afternoon.

The PNP cited at least six lapses of the DPPF personnel.

P/Supt. Francisco Villaroman, Southeastern Mindanao police operations chief said the DPPF kept so many firearms without proper security.

He also belittled Malinao's claim that 168 guards were on duty on the night of the raid. "With this number of guards, why  was there no resistance on the part of the guards?" he asked.

Villaroman also questioned DPPF's delay in reporting the incident to the nearest police station. He sad it took them two hours to report the incident.

He cited a standing order from Gen. Vicente Vinarao of the Bureau of Corrections that during holidays, all their personnel nationwide should be on "heightened alert and shall coordinate with the AFP and PNP."

Villaroman said there was no coordination at all even if on February 26, the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology attended a police regional office-initiated table top exercise to preempt occurrences of jail breaks.

Bianzon announced Tuesday the filing of robbery in band case against rebel leader Parago and his men and other suspects involved in the raid.

Boac stressed that Dapecol is a self-containing unit with the capability to defend itself and is not part of the PNP and the AFP. He said the prison farm is under the Bureau of Corrections, which is under the Department of Justice. 

He denied, however, that the assessment of the joint internal security operations (ISO) was triggered by the raid. He said it was part of their ISO campaign plan. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)