GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/20 August)– Police have filed arson charges against an alleged leader and several members of a New People’s Army (NPA) unit operating in the hinterlands of South Cotabato province over the burning of three heavy equipment in an attack at a quarry site in Koronadal City last week.
Sr. Insp. Joseph Carlos Madrid, chief investigator of the Koronadal City police station, said Wednesday they filed complaints for violation of Article 320 of the Revised Penal Code before the city prosecution office on Tuesday against a certain Marlon Obanan alias Matmat, alias Nelson, alias Joseph and 15 other unidentified suspects.
He said they identified the suspects, who were mostly listed as residents of Matanao town in Davao del Sur, based on the results of their investigation and accounts from several witnesses.
The group, which is reportedly under the NPA’s Far South Mindanao Regional Operations Command, staged the attack at around 4 a.m. last Friday, Aug. 15, at a quarry site in Purok Riverside of Barangay Topland in Koronadal City and burned three heavy equipment owned by a local construction company, he said.
“We initially filed the arson charges to facilitate their endorsement to a court and the issuance of the arrest warrants against the suspects,” Madrid said in a radio interview.
Once the court issues the arrest warrants, the official said they will immediately coordinate and send its copies to other police stations in nearby regions.
He said they will also coordinate with local units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines for possible operations against the suspects.
Madrid called for cooperation from local residents, especially those located in areas possibly frequented by the suspects.
“We need help from the public in terms of information on the whereabouts of these suspects,” he added.
An estimated 20 to 30 heavily armed rebels aboard a commandeered utility van stormed last Friday a quarry site along the Topland River operated by the FM Bascon Construction and Concrete Products and later torched its grader, loader and crusher.
The construction firm is owned by Engr. Fernando Bascon, an uncle of Koronadal City Mayor Peter Miguel.
The utility van was later found abandoned in Purok Randal of Sitio Tabialong of nearby Barangay Cacub, which is located near the boundary of Koronadal City and Columbio town in Sultan Kudarat.
The attack at the quarry site was followed by the throwing of an improvised grenade about 30 minutes later at a police detachment in Barangay Sta. Cruz in nearby Tampakan, South Cotabato and the strafing several hours later of a service vehicle owned by a security firm connected with foreign-backed mining firm Sagittarius Mines Inc. in Barangay Danlag of the same town.
Three members of the South Cotabato Provincial Police’s Public Safety Company were injured in the dawn grenade attack while no one was reported hurt in the strafing incident. (MindaNews)