4 nabbed after Panabo NPA attack

PANABO CITY (MindaNews/22 March) – Police arrested four persons in connection with last Sunday’s attack by New People’s Army rebels of the Panabo City police station that left one police officer killed and two others wounded.

Philippine National Police Director General Ramon Bacalzo said three of the suspects – identified as Nenito Torres, 52, Atilano Badelles and Danny Saludo – were residents of Barangay Maduao in Panabo City, only seven kilometers from the police station.

Police investigators believed that Torres and the two others helped the rebels after the two vans intended for the rebels’ escape got stuck in the muddy road some 50 meters from the police station.

Torres denied he is a member of the NPA but admitted cooking rice and buying sugar and coffee for the rebels on Sunday morning after the attack.

“The rebels came to the coconut farm where I was working. They asked me to cook rice for 20 persons. What can I do? I was caught in the middle of the fighting,” Torres said in the vernacular.

Torres said the rebels brought their own rice and gave him P200 to buy sugar and coffee.

Bacalzo said a fourth suspect, identified as Eliseo Mariano, reportedly from Santo Tomas, Davao Oriental, was arrested in Lasang, Davao City.

“Our operatives found that Mariano has injuries believed to be gunshot wounds sustained during the attack,” Bacalzo told journalists here this morning.

He said the PNP Crime Laboratory is trying to match blood samples of Mariano to those found in the Toyota van left by the rebels near the police station.

He said Mariano is now confined at a hospital here.

In a statement emailed to news organizations, the NPA owned the attack, saying “ it is the fulfillment of the persistent clamor of the masses in Panabo (City).”

The rebels said an oversized platoon of the 1st Pulang Bagani Company launched the attack against the Panabo police station.

“Two enemies were killed while two others were wounded. The red fighters seized an M16 rifle. The aim of the NPA attack was to disarm the vicious police unit but its hostile actions warranted a counter measure which resulted in the death of a police personnel,” said Ka Parago of the NPA Merardo Arce Command.

Parago said NPA attacks throughout the country is not a violation to any agreements in the ongoing peace talks between the Philippine government and the rebels.

The declared ceasefire at the onset of the peace talks last February has been lifted with both sides accusing each other of violations. (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)