UPDATED: Policeman killed as NPA attacks Panabo police station; 2 vans used got stuck in the mud

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/20 March) – A policeman was killed while two others suffered injuries in what the police and military said was a foiled attack by the New People’s Army on the police station behind the City Hall in Panabo at around 10:15 Saturday night.

A still undetermined number of NPA guerrillas in military uniform arrived on board two commercial passenger vans bearing red plates covering the green plate numbers (red plates are for government vehicles). As the rebels made their exit, the vans were left behind, stuck in the muddy road some 50 meters and 150 meters away. Ten backpacks were also found in the van, reports from the police and military said.

The van drivers are under investigation in the Davao del Norte Provincial Police Office, Lt. Joy Damasco of the civil military operation of the 10th Infantry Division, told MindaNews.

Col. Lysander Suerte, chief of the 1003rd Infantry Brigade told MindaNews that the engine of the van that got stuck nearest the police station was still running when the rebels fled on foot towards a banana plantation. Bloodstains were reportedly found in the van.

According to the police report from Davao del Norte,  policemen led by Senior Inspector Jay Demaala “repulsed the attack in a firefight that lasted for about 30 minutes before the enemy withdrew. “

Demaala, PO3 Narciso Pakiwag and Police Auxiliary Minoza, whose first name was not made available, were wounded during the attack and rushed to the Rivera Hospital in Panabo City. Panabo is 26 kilometers from downtown Davao City.

Pakiwag expired at the hospital.

Suerte and Sr. Supt. Edgar Wycoco, Police Provincial Director, proceeded to the police station as soon as they heard of the attack.

Suerte said Pakiwag, guard on duty at the ground floor, may have thought that those who arrived were government troops. But a policeman on the second floor who saw the arrival from the window alerted his other companions on the same floor. Suerte said there were about ten policemen at that time so the rebels were not able to reach the second floor.

He said the rebels “may have planned a lightning raid, to surprise and overwhelm the station personnel.”

He said the planned exit may have failed to consider that it rained Saturday afternoon and the road was muddy.

Damasco said the two drivers of the commuter vans used by the NPA during the Panabo attack last night were being investigated by the Davao del Norte Provincial Police Office.

Damasco said initial investigation showed that a woman went to the van terminal of Gaisano Mall in Davao City to arrange for a trip to Mati for a wedding party. The drivers agreed to ferry the passengers at P4,500 each. A down payment of P2,500 each was given and they were told to wait for their guides.

“Shortly, the guides arrived and they left for Panabo to fetch the family who will attend the wedding. Upon reaching Panabo, they were guided towards a remote barangay apparently where the family was waiting. Along the way, they were blocked by armed men in bonnets and were ordered to drive to the police station,” Damasco said.

As of  5 p.m. Sunday, the NPA has not issued a statement on the Panabo attack. (MindaNews)