NPA raids Davao prison, hauls 103 firearms

About 30 guerrillas pulled off the raid in about 20 minutes without firing a shot.

The Davao Prison and Penal Farm (DPPF), popularly called by its former name,
Dapecol (Davao Penal Colony), 50 kilometers northeast of Davao City, appeared
to be lightly guarded.

Chief Superintendent Andres Caro II, Davao Regional police director, said the
rebels carted away five M-16s, one of them from the guard outpost of the
adjacent banana plantation of the Floirendo-owned Tadeco farm, 45 carbine
rifles, 46 shotguns and seven .38 caliber pistols. He did not say if
ammunitions were also taken.

Caro said the rebels quickly overpowered at gunpoint the two guards at the
main gate of the Dapecol at past 2:00 am Sunday, and the two other guards
assigned at the gate of the compound housing the administration building and
the armory. The armory compound is about 500 meters from the main gate.

The rebels were clad in military fatigue-uniform with the anti-terrorism Task
Force Davao insignia and patches on them and rode in five vans-for-hire when
they pretended to suffer one defective vehicle, Caro said. "They pushed the
van toward the main gate [of Dapecol] and asked the two guards to see
Assistant Penal Supt. Gerardo Padilla."

"The NPAs then pointed their guns at the guards and forced them to open the
gate," he said.

The raiders disarmed the guards who were carrying M-16s as well as the lone
guard at the outpost of the Tadeco plantation across the street. They then
proceeded to the compound where the armory was and also suppressed resistance
from the two guards by pretending to be soldiers.

The armory compound is about 50 meters from the Reception and Diagnostic
Center, the receiving area for new prisoners. In March1998, prisoners took hostage prison guards and medical personnel before they were also overpowered and killed.

The rebels were said to have hired two vans in Panabo City, 18 kilometers south of Dapecol, and three other vans in Tagum City, about 43 kilometers southeast of Dapecol.

"The owners of the vans were told that the vans would be used in a wedding but the NPAs later commandeered the vans in Manay area (about three kilometersnorth of
Carmen town),” Caro said.

A group of NPA was also reported to have burned down a tire about two kilometers farther north of the highway along the Dapecol main gate, and exploded what appeared to be a land mine shortly before the raid in Libertad Crossing. The explosion created a three feet wide and three feet deep crater at the side of the cement road and seared the leaves of bananas nearby, said Pepito Magno, a driver of a civilian passenger jeep, who passed by the site at 9 a.m. Sunday. A television crew also said  they saw a wire stretched to about 500 meters long connecting the explosive.

"It looks like this was a distraction," Caro said.

He said the raiders may have been the same group that soldiers sighted three days earlier in Paquibato, about 20 kilometers west of Dapecol area. He said the raiders may have also used the same 28 military uniforms and military boots that were also earlier monitored to have been purchased on March 28. He did not say where the
uniforms were bought.

Caro said that the guerrillas withdrew toward the northeastern direction, probably toward the Paquibato area. He said information indicated the raiders were led by a Kumander Parago.

The drivers of the vans remained under investigation at the Davao del Norte
Police Provincial Office. (Manuel T. Cayon/MindaNews)