GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 17 June) – Authorities are eyeing extortion by suspected New People’s Army (NPA) rebels as motive behind the burning of three heavy equipment in a quarry site in Tboli town, South Cotabato province on Monday afternoon.
Maj. Irish Hezron Parangan, acting chief of the Tboli municipal police station, said Tuesday workers of the Gemma Construction and Supply Inc. were extracting gravel along a riverside in Barangay Edwards amidst heavy rains around 3 p.m. when four gunmen came and torched their heavy equipment.
He said the three company drivers were not harmed but the backhoe, payloader and dump truck were totally destroyed.
Citing accounts from one of the drivers, Parangan said a lone gunman carrying a sack initially approached and asked them to leave the site.
He said three more suspects then appeared, poured gasoline on the heavy equipment and set them on fire.
The suspects, who were wearing ski masks and armed with handguns, hastily left the site after the incident, he said.
Parangan said the circumstances of the incident showed that it could be the handiwork of NPA rebels, which was blamed over similar attacks in the area in the previous years.
“We’re looking at extortion as possible motive but we’re not discounting other angles,” he said in a radio interview.
He said these include the recent surrender in the area of former NPA combatants under the Guerilla Front 72-Far South Mindanao Region.
The police official said officials of Gemma Construction, who were working on various government-commissioned infrastructure projects in parts of the province, have yet to confirm whether they received extortion demands prior to the attack.
He said the company estimated the damage to the three burned heavy equipment at P20 million.
Parangan added that followup operations, along with elements from the Army’s 27th Infantry Battalion, were ongoing against the suspects. (MindaNews)