CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/08 March) – Top officials of the Philippine National Police condemned the ambush Sunday of a team of police investigators who responded to the killing earlier that day of a former barangay chair in Malaybalay City, capital of Bukidnon.
The ambush, which was blamed on the New People’s Army, armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, resulted in the death of three policemen and a civilian aide and the wounding of four other policemen.
Killed were PO1 Ronel Bayta, PO1 Jaime Napil, PO3Jomar Cahig and a civilian aide, Rodel Dangop. Wounded were PO1 Xerxes Bon Palasol, PO3 Glenn Pamisa, PO3 Zandrex Llido and PO1 Angelito Linaban.
They were on their way to Barangay Mapayag, Malaybalay to investigate the killing of former barangay chair Antonio Pechora whose death was also blamed on the NPA.
“This act of treachery by the CPP/NPA on non-combatants is very unfortunate and deserves the condemnation of civil society and every peace-loving Filipino,” PNP chief Director General Raul M. Bacalzo said.
PNP spokesperson Chief Supt. Agrimero A Cruz Jr. said the attack further raised “doubts on the sincerity of the CPP/NPA of pursuing peace initiatives with government.”
As of Tuesday, the NPA had not issued any statement admitting or denying responsibility for Pechora’s death and the ambush.
The PNP leadership accorded full funeral honors to three slain police officers before their remains were turned over to their respective families.
The ambush came a day after the street dance competition in Malaybalay which highlighted the month-long Kaamulan, the annual festival showcasing Bukidnon’s indigenous cultures.
The victims were onboard a Mitsubishi van which was tailing a patrol car that was hit by an explosive believed to be a landmine.
Lightly armed, the PNP team was pinned down by the suspected rebels who were reportedly carrying M79 grenade launchers and machineguns.
“What happened was really horrible,” said Chief Insp. Regina Abanales, spokesperson of the Police Regional Office 10 based in Camp Alagar here.
Taken from the slain police officers were three 9mm pistols and an M-16 rifle.
A source in the PNP who asked not to be named as he is not authorized to speak on the matter said that they are now investigating their standard operating procedures as lapses in intelligence may have been a factor in the ambush.
At least six attacks involving the burning of plantation equipment have been recorded in Bukidnon this year. These were all blamed on the NPA which is reportedly exacting “revolutionary tax” from firms like Dole and Stanfilco.
Recently, Bukidnon Governor Alex Calingasan challenged the NPA to stop “extorting” from Bukidnon agribusiness firms to show its sincerity in peace talks with government.
In a peace forum organized by InPeace here last week, Bukidnon Vice Governor Jose Maria Zubiri appealed to the National Democratic Front to ask the NPA to spare innocent civilians.
Peace talks between the Government of the Philippines and the NDF resumed last month in Oslo, Norway.
The NDF is the umbrella organization of all communist-led rebel groups in the Philippines including the NPA, armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines.
The CPP-NPA has been waging an armed struggle since 1968 and has entered into on-and-off peace negotiations with the Philippine government since the time of President Corazon C. Aquino.
Largely acknowledged as a homegrown insurgency, the CPP-NPA sustains itself by collecting “revolutionary taxes” from logging and mining firms and other businesses. (BenCyrus G. Ellorin/MindaNews)