CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/26 August) – New People’s Army guerillas attacked the town of Medina in Misamis Oriental, some one-and-a-half hour’s ride away from this city, and practically overran the municipal police station late Thursday afternoon, police said.
About 30 NPAs aboard three vans managed to slip through the Medina police’s patrol and zeroed in their assault on the town’s police headquarters a few minutes past 5 p.m., according to P/Insp. James Olores Gaylan, Medina police chief.
A policeman identified as SPO1 Edito Bayhon was killed in the 45-minute gun battle while two of his colleagues – SPO2 Renie Galera Rombo and SPO1 Diosdado Salas Sendiong – were wounded. “Bayhon got hit with the first volley of fire because he was at the front desk of the station that time,” Gaylan said.
The rebels sustained one fatality, identified as Kumander Hakim. Maj. Eugenio Julio Osias IV, spokesperson of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division based in this city, said the killed NPA may have been the rebel group’s assault squad leader.
The NPAs reportedly carted away an M16 assault rifle.
Gaylan said there were only seven police officers staffing the station when the rebels came because the rest of the police on duty conducted patrol elsewhere in the town.
Medina police recovered the three vans used by the NPAs in Barangay San Isidro at 7 a.m. today.
Quoting the drivers, Gaylan said the vans – two from this city and the third van from Surigao City – were rented out.
“When they neared Medina, that’s when their passengers announced they were commandeering the vans,” he said.
“Actually, our counterparts from the Philippine Army have already passed intelligence report months before that the NPAs were prepping for an attack here and other neighboring towns. That’s why we implemented the rotating patrols around the town,” Gaylan said in a phone interview.
Osias said their intelligence sources had monitored the troop movements of the NPAs months before.
“Our intelligence informed us. We shared the intel with the local police forces that is why they implemented rotating patrols. The patrols were supposed to be pre-emptive measures but unfortunately, the NPAs managed to slip past the patrols,” Osias said.
He also said combined troops from the 403rd Infantry Brigade and 8th Infantry Battalion under Col. Romeo Gapuz and Lt. Col. Jose Maria Cuerpo, respectively, after securing the area, conducted combat pursuit operations against the rebels, who were retreating towards the boundaries of Bukidnon and Agusan del Norte.
Osias said that from June up to the early part of August, there have been 64 NPA-initiated attacks within the 4ID’s area of responsibility, which includes the whole of Caraga region and most of Northern Mindanao. He said these ranged from ambuscades, liquidations, burning of company equipment, raids and extortion.
In a text message, Teodoro Sabuga-a, Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) executive director, called on the National Democratic Front (NDF) to “make room for development” and appealed for a truce as both the government and NDF peace panels prepare for the resumption of peace negotiations next month.
“They failed in their primary purpose to overrun the Medina town hall because the PNP was prepared to defend their duty but they were successful in their propaganda to show they are still around,” Sabuga-a said.
“Our PPOC’s success in bringing the government closer to the people threatens [the NPA],” he added.
Sabuga-a said this latest attack will not stop PPOC’s quest for peace and development in Misamis Oriental.
“As GPH peace panel chief Alex Padilla said, we don’t believe in winning through force or violence; in the same way, the NDF can never win through armed struggle,” he said, adding that peace and development can only be attained through a negotiated political settlement.
In an emailed statement, Misamis Oriental Governor Oscar Moreno condemned “in the strongest possible terms the NPA attack in the municipality of Medina which caused the lives of (a policeman) and a member of the NPA.”
Moreno said the attack jeopardized the progress the province has attained through “hard work and cooperation of the people.”
“Our instructions for the law enforcement agencies (police and military) to conduct a thorough and deep investigation to find out who are responsible and their motives, pursue a vigorous pursuit operations without let-up and bring the perpetrators to the court of law,” Moreno’s statement reads. (Cong B. Corrales / MindaNews)