CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/05 September)— In an attempt to rectify what they had admitted to be a mistake, the New People’s Army in Bukidnon promised to indemnify the families of workers who were slain in an attack on a small-scale mining company in the province last month.
Ka Ariel Inda Magbanwag, spokesperson of the NPA’s Bukidnon-North Central Mindanao Region, said in a phone interview over the weekend that the attack on Nano Trading and Mining Corporation in Purok 5, Capitan Bayong, Impasug-ong town last August 6 was a mistake.
The attack left three workers dead and eight others wounded.
Magbanwag said the platoon that carried out the assault operated under “outdated information on the mining company.”
“We acknowledge the fact that no amount of money could assuage the grief of the relatives of the slain workers. However, the revolutionary movement is prepared, and more than willing, to indemnify them. We will also extend medical assistance to the wounded workers,” she said.
This, Magbanwag said, is their way of admitting and rectifying their “mistake and asking for forgiveness from the families of the victims.”
She said the operation was a “punitive sanction” because of the repeated complaints they received from the surrounding communities as well as some of the mining firm’s workers against the company.
“People from the neighboring communities have repeatedly complained [about] the company manager’s penchant for firing his gun indiscriminately. This has intimidated the workers and terrorized the communities,” she said.
In a phone interview Sunday, 4th Infantry Division spokesperson Maj. Eugenio Julio Osias IV said the NPA’s mistake shows how loose the rebels are in terms of “appreciation of ground intelligence that resulted in the death of innocent civilians.”
“Even if they indemnify the families of the victims, (this) does not absolve them of their liability,” he said.
The operation, Magbanwag explained, was also in relation to the revolutionary movement’s continuing environmental protection policy. It may be recalled that in their anniversary last year, National Democratic Front-Mindanao spokesperson Jorge “Ka Oris” Madlos told reporters that the NDF is against mining and other forms of plunder of the country’s patrimony.
The NPA said that based on the information they had gathered the mining firm allegedly kept a cache of assorted firearms and fragmentation grenades.
Magbanwag added they monitored 10 armed guards albeit they could not ascertain whether these were private security or enlisted military personnel “detailed” to the company.
The Maoist guerrillas also admitted to confiscating items some of which were “non-military articles,” but denied stealing a sack of rice as reported in local papers.
“After the operation, our comrades confiscated one .45 caliber pistol, an air gun, cash amounting to P400 which we found hidden in a compartment in the air gun’s butt, one wristwatch and three mobile phones. We will return the items of non-military nature,” said Magbanwag.
For his part, Osias challenged the guerrillas to sanction the platoon leader who led the assault with the same severity as meted to the company for the alleged indiscriminate firing by its manager.
“The lapse in their chain of command caused lives. We understand that indiscriminate firing can really scare people and that it is a serious crime. However, punitive sanction they meted out to the company resulted in the killing of innocent workers. Will they kill their erring combatants? They do not have the moral high ground or the ascendancy to do that because they do not have the mandate and authority of the people, not even the local communities where they operate,” he said. (Cong Corrales/MindaNews)