212 villagers flee after NPA-AFP clashes in NorthCot

MAKILALA, North Cotabato (MindaNews/14 June) – At least 212 villagers, mostly women and children, from a remote area in this town evacuated to safer places after elements of the Army’s Sixth Infantry Division Reconnaissance Company (DRC) and New People’s Army (NPA) rebels traded gunfire Saturday night, belated reports said.

Miriam Pangolin, one of the evacuees whose family joined 42 others in seeking refuge at the barangay hall compound, said they were able to bring only a few things with them when they left.

“We have nothing to eat. We only asked food and clothes from residents here,” said Pangilan.

Pangilan’s family joined the exodus as they left Purok-6 in Barangay Batasan around 7 p.m. on Saturday when rebels, under a certain Commander Enoy of the NPA Front 51, attacked the outpost of the 6th DRC that led to the killing of Pfc. Arnie Agata.

The assault led to a 30-minute gun battle. Terrified, the villagers hurriedly left their place and went to the barangay hall and settled temporarily in the area.

On Monday afternoon, Barangay Batasan chairman Alejandro Lariosa distributed five kilos of rice, sardines, and other relief items to the evacuees.

The attack on the Army outpost last Saturday was the third since June.

On June 6, the rebels shot dead an 18-year-old Jeff Hagonos whom they suspected of helping the Army locate a rebel territory in this municipality sometime March last year.

The NPA rebels had also launched attacks in the nearby towns of Magpet and Arakan, also in North Cotabato.

On Monday, around 1:30 a.m., the rebels fired shots towards a detachment of the Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) at Barangay Anapolon in Arakan town.

Around 12 noon, also on Monday, a landmine blast occurred at Barangay Basak in Magpet town where soldiers belonging to the Army’s 57th Infantry Battalion were patrolling in the area.

The soldiers spotted some 10 fully-armed rebels at Sitio Kalu-Kalo, Barangay Basak. The explosion led toa10-minute exchange of gunfire in the area.

None among the soldiers, according to Lt. Manuel Gatus, chief of the 57IB’s civil military operations, was killed or injured during the landmine blast.

Lt. Col. Joven Gonzales, 57IB commander, said they have already intensified their security in areas where communist rebels are again detected or spotted.

“I sensed the attacks launched by the NPA in North Cotabato as a diversionary tactic. The rebels have plans. As to specifics of these plans, I still have to find out. We’re still investigating,” said Insp. Basilio Parcon, chief of Arakan PNP. (Malu Cadeliña Manar / MindaNews)