KIBAWE, Bukidnon (MindaNews/12 Dec.) – A policeman was killed while three others were wounded when suspected New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas stormed the police station of Kibawe town in southern Bukidnon early on Thursday.
Killed during the 20-minute firefight was SPO3 Rodelfin Alonzo, who was supposed to retire next year. Wounded were PO3 Junar Juban, PO2 Elizar Lacoste and PO2 Jonerey Maniego.
Juban was hit in the ribs while Lacoste was wounded in both legs, and both were recuperating at the municipal hospital in Kibawe. Maniego asked to be confined in a hospital in Maramag, his hometown.
Kibawe police officer-in-charge SPO3 Ian Minoza said the rebels seized six M-16 armalite rifles and three 9mm pistols.
He said only eight policemen including himself were on duty at the time of the attack.
Kibawe had 28 police personnel including the late Alonzo, he said.
The attack damaged a television set, computers and other equipment inside the police station. Some bullets from the rebel side landed on the walls of the municipal engineering office beside the station.
Supt. Edgar Daniel Jr., commander of the police’s Regional Public Safety Battalion in Region 10 said the rebels rode in four vans and three pickups, five of which were impounded outside the police station.
“We’re still tracing the ownership of these vehicles through the LTO (Land Transportation Office),” Daniel said.
He said the Provincial Public Safety Company (PPSC) based in Malaybalay City, Bukidnon’s capital, pursued the rebels but were ambushed in Barangay Migcawayan in Damulog town.
He said nobody was wounded when a landmine exploded, but some shrapnel hit the holster of PO1 Michael Salvacion. “He was lucky because he was on low-holster, otherwise his leg would have been hit.”
PPSC commander Supt. Enrico Engreso said the rebels withdrew to Sitio Patag, Barangay Mascarinas, Kibawe, a village by the Pulangi River.
Engreso said around 50 rebels staged the attack. “Maybe they wanted to accomplish something because their anniversary is coming.”
A policeman surveys the vehicles used by suspected New People’s Army rebels who raided the police station of Kibawe, Bukidnon on Dec. 12. H. Marcos C. Mordeno
The Communist Party of the Philippines, which controls the NPA, will mark its 45th founding year on December 26.
In an interview, Lacoste told MindaNews that after he was hit he almost passed out. He recalled that one of the attackers who entered the room where he was sprawled said, “pasagdi na kay patay na man na” (leave him alone, he’s already dead).
He said it was still a little dark outside when the rebels arrived. “I don’t know how many rebels came, but judging from the volume of gunfire there were several of them,” he added.
Juban, who was confined in the same room, begged off from being interviewed as he still found it hard to catch his breath whenever he spoke. He was undergoing blood transfusion when MindaNews arrived at the hospital.
Town Mayor Minerva Casinabe said the policemen tried to defend their post but were no match for the estimated 50 rebels.
Casinabe said the attack was the first of its kind in Kibawe. “Nothing like this happened even during Martial Law.”
Daniel said they had intelligence information that the NPA might launch attacks but they could not pinpoint the exact target.
For her part, Casinabe said Senior Supt. Glen de la Torre, provincial police chief had warned police chiefs in the province Tuesday to be on alert.
The mayor said the local government had requested reinforcements from the provincial police office and the military.
Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr, who went to Kibawe around 7:30 a.m., said he will address insurgency in Bukidnon via dialogue.
“I extend my hand for peace. If the (peace process) is not solved in the national (level), we can do it in local,” he added.
Zubiri appealed to the “armed men in the mountains” to spare Bukidnon from attacks.
Earlier this week, suspected NPA rebels burned two dump trucks owned by Mayor Levi Edma of San Fernando town.
On December 1, rebels killed three persons and injured a boy in Sitio Abel, Miarayon, Talakag town.
In 2007, the NPA also attacked the police station in Dangcagan, a town next to Kibawe A police officer was killed, and the rebels snatched seven firearms and ammunition. (H. Marcos C. Mordeno, with a report from Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)