BUTUAN CITY (MindaNews/ 12 May) – The Philippine Army operating in Agusan del Norte has intensified operations and stepped up alert status on the eve of election day after a series of encounters with suspected members of the New People’s Army (NPA).
“Since the first week of May, our soldiers have been harassed several times by the NPA. We have expected these activities from the NPA to intensify in their hope to disrupt the electoral process as what we have seen in other parts of the country,” said Lt. Joe Patrick Martinez, civil-military operations (CMO) officer of the 402nd Infantry Battalion.
Martinez said the latest such incident was 1 a.m. Saturday wherein 20 NPA rebels traded fire with the Army’s patrol base in Mount Mayapay, Sitio Tapnigue, Barangay Sangay in Buenavista town for seven minutes.
Another encounter occurred the day before, in an area close to a polling center in Barangay San Isidro in the municipality of Kitcharao, wherein a trooper from the 3rd Special Forces Battalion was injured in theirght knee, he said.
Lt. Col. Ricardo Leonardo Jr., commanding officer of the 3SFB, pointed out the need to step up their efforts.
“Our troops in Kitcharao received reports from residents that there had been sighting of armed men in the area. So we immediately sent our soldiers to check and afterward they encountered the NPA. We are stepping up our efforts to avert any untoward incidents on the day our citizens will cast their votes,” he said.
Earlier, on May 3, the NPA conducted a daring three-hour attack at the Army patrol base in Barangay San Antonio in the municipality of Remedios T. Romualdez or RTR around 4:30 a.m. There were no reports of casualty nor injury on both sides.
Leonardo said that most of the soldiers under the 3SFB have been assigned to different polling centers all over the province to safeguard the election.