CAGAYAN DE ORO (MindaNews / 31 May) – The New People’s Army on (NP) Sunday said they were not responsible for the burning of four houses and a small chapel in a hinterland village in Opol, Misamis Oriental on Thursday morning.
In a statement, NPA spokesperson Maybelle Guerrero said it was not also true that the residents of Zone 2, Barangay Limonda, heard the suspects shout “Mabuhay ang NPA” (Long live the NPA).
“If this is true, then it raises the suspicion that the arson was the handiwork of AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) soldiers,” Guerrero said.
“We would like to assure the people of Opol and Misamis Oriental that the NPA does not, and will not, destroy civilian infrastructure, especially places of worship,” she said.
Opol town Mayor Maximino Seno condemned the Thursday attack and called on the military to protect the residents of Zone 2, Barangay Limonda.
“Most of them are poor, I don’t know the reason why the NPA attacked them,” the mayor said.
Capt. Rene Belmonte, Jr., spokesperson of the Army’s 403rd Infantry Brigade, said“the villagers saw two of the rebels pour gasoline on the chapel and houses.” He said the chapel was used by “Born Again Christians.”
According to Belmonte, the NPA perpetrators were led by a certain “Decoy” of the Guerilla Front 12 that operates near the border of Misamis Oriental and Iligan City.
Guerrero also belied military claims that alias Maria Malaya, spokesperson of the National Democratic Front (NDF) in in Northeast Mindanao, and alias Joaquin Jacinto, NDF-Mindanao spokesperson, were among those killed in recent encounters with the military in Surigao del Sur.
She showed undated photos of Malaya and Jacinto in the rebel website, Philippine Revolution Web Central, as proof that the two communist leaders are alive.
“This is contrary to military reports and social media propaganda claiming that they were killed in a firefight in Surigao del Sur,” Guerrero said. (Froillan Gallardo / MindaNews