Army, police to put up substation in Bukidnon hotspot

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/4 July) – The police and the military are putting up a composite substation in a location in Quezon town along the Bukidnon Davao road, common site of attacks by the New People’s Army, including burning of trucks carrying fruits.

Senior Supt. Rustom Duran, Bukidnon police director, said the area is prone to rebel attacks, especially burning of trucks. He said they are planning to put up a substation of a composite team from the police and the Army “as soon as possible.”

Lt. Col. Jose Ma. Cuerpo, chief of the Army’s 8th Infantry Brigade, confirmed this to MindaNews via telephone.

The announcement was made after about 50 rebels were reported to have torched five Prime Mover trucks Saturday evening in Barangay Puntian of the said town.

The NPA allegedly flagged down the trucks about 9:43 p.m. in a checkpoint they put up along the highway. The burning was reported at 10:30 p.m.

No one was reported killed in the incident, which left all five trucks “totally burned” while the trailers containing banana were “partially burned,” according to the police spot report. About 15 persons led the trucks to an inner road 500 meters from the highway, where they then burned the trucks. The drivers were all released unharmed after the incident.

Police reported that two of the trucks were owned by “FSTA,” two by “Red Bull Express” and another one by “Bantuanon.”

Duran told MindaNews the target appears to be the owners of the trucks, not the banana companies. He said the container vans carrying the fruits were left intact. MindaNews sources from the area said the fruit companies retrieved the cargo Sunday morning.

Duran said they will file arson charges against a certain Randy Bayot, who allegedly led the attack.

Cuerpo said the substation should be “semi-permanent” in the area, a necessary step as alternative to the roving patrol they used in the area. He admitted that they were “handicapped on the number of personnel.”

He said they used temporary patrol bases in Puntian and Palacapao before the recent attack.

Cuerpo said the NPA took advantage of the Army’s “lesser presence” in the area even if he refused to acknowledge that they were outsmarted by the NPA.

He admitted that the attack happened after they pulled out their temporary patrol bases for an operation in Malaybalay City’s Upper Pulangi area.

Cuerpo admitted, too, that around 8 p.m. they received an intelligence report that the NPA had conducted a checkpoint. He said he ordered personnel to check it out and sent troops when it was confirmed. But he said the troops were sent to nearby Barangay Kiburiao, which he said was en route to the rebels’ exit.

Police and military sources said pursuit operations are still on. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)

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