Armed men burn 5 dump trucks, payloaders in Koronadal

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews /07 December) —   Some 20 heavily-armed men stormed the quarry site of Happy Living Realty and Development Corporation in Purok Aquino, Barangay Concepcion at past 7 p.m. Tuesday and set on fire five dump trucks and payloaders, Supt. Barney Condes, Koronadal City police chief, said Wednesday.

He said no one was hurt in the attack but the suspects torched two dump trucks and three payloaders in the area.

Citing accounts from the company’s workers and security guards, Condes said the armed men declared they were members of the New People’s Army ((NPA) upon entering the site.

The suspects immediately disarmed the security guards, poured gasoline on the five heavy equipment and set them on fire, he said.

The armed men also carted away the company’s computer monitor and a unit of Samsung cellphone, and a Cherry Mobile cellphone, two 12-gauge shotguns, a caliber .38 pistol issued to security guards of the Supreme and Specialist security agencies.

Before leaving the site, one of the suspects reportedly declared that the attack was due to the supposed failure of the company to pay revolutionary taxes to the rebel group.

“We’re currently looking at extortion as the primary motive,” Condes told reporters.

Prior to the attack, company officials and representatives claimed that they did not receive threats and demands for payment of a certain amount from any group, he said.

But a sister company of Happy Living Realty had received demands from supposed NPA rebels for payment of revolutionary taxes, Condes said.

“These companies actually have different owners but the suspects might have assumed that they are the same,” he said.

Lt. Col. Benjamin Leander, commanding officer of the Army’s 27th Infantry Battalion, said they could not yet confirm whether the attack was staged by the NPA.

He said there are two active NPA units — Fronts 72 and 73 of the Far South Mindanao Revolutionary Committee — that presently operate in the area.

Leander said they are currently investigating the circumstances of the attack and in the process of identifying the suspects based on descriptions from witnesses.

“We will check later on with our database and get possible matches to back up the filing of charges against all those involved in the attack,” he said.

Leander said pursuit operations against the suspects are currently ongoing but stressed that they are strictly observing the standing ceasefire with the NPA in line with the ongoing peace process.

Koronadal City Mayor condemned the attack and urged authorities to conduct a deeper investigation on the matter.

“I want to get into the bottom of this, especially whether the NPA is really involved or if it was a simple case of extortion,” he said.

The mayor acknowledged that the incident might affect anew the image of the city among potential investors and tourists.

“This is a major incident so I asked help from higher authorities for resolution the soonest possible time,” he added. (MindaNews)