Police, military put on alert vs ‘sparrows’ in South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/11 March) – Police and military units in South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat province have stepped up their intelligence and security operations following the reported deployment recently of an alleged New People’s Army (NPA) “sparrow unit” or urban hit squad in the area.

Lt. Col. Joel Nacnac, commander of the Army’s 27th Infantry Battalion (IB), said Friday they uncovered the supposed deployment of the NPA hit squad from documents they claimed to have recovered earlier this week from a fallen temporary base of the rebels in a remote village in Columbio town in Sultan Kudarat.

Troops under the 27th IB overran the rebel group’s position in Sitio Lamanggo, Barangay Sinapulan in Columbio on Sunday afternoon following an encounter with an NPA unit reportedly led by Kumander Macmac.

Nacnac said the seized documents allegedly detailed the rebel group’s commissioning of a six-man NPA sparrow unit from Davao City to operate in the area.

“Their main targets for assassination are police and military intelligence operatives and officials, including myself,” he said.

The Army official said they are still verifying the validity of the supposed plan but cited that they were not taking it lightly.

He said all their units in the area are already on heightened alert and they beefed up their presence in the urban areas and their key strategic positions to avert any planned movement by the NPA rebels, including that of its supposed hit squad.

Nacnac said he met with South Cotabato provincial police director Senior Supt. Nilo Wong last Wednesday to coordinate their movements and draw up initial counter-strategies.

Supt. Anecito Ambay, Koronadal City police chief, said he has dispatched some of their informants in various parts of the city to monitor the possible rebel movements.

He admitted that he had received the same information earlier from the local intelligence community.

“Supposedly they (NPA sparrow unit) will initially set up their base here while they’re still familiarizing with the area and their identified targets,” he said.

The police official said they already alerted other local law enforcement units and concerned village officials regarding the report and help monitor any related suspicious activities within their assigned areas.

South Cotabato Gov. Arthur Pingoy Jr., who also admitted to have received the same report, appealed to NPA leaders to shed light on the supposed deployment of its hit squad in the area.

The governor urged the rebel group to reconsider launching such kind of operations saying it will only add up to the lingering negative perception about the area as triggered by previous peace and order problems.

“They would only hamper our ongoing development initiatives, especially those that are geared towards the improvement of the lives of our people, especially those in the remote areas,” Pingoy said. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)