Bayan Muna HQ in Northern Samar sprayed with bulletsBy Joey Gabieta
TACLOBAN CITY, Philippines—Unidentified men strafed on Wednesday night the Northern Samar office of the militant organization Bayan Muna in the provincial capital town of Catarman.
Andrew Sudario, Northern Samar provincial chairman of Bayan Muna, said he and four others were inside their office in Barangay Kawayan, Catarman, about 10:25 p.m. when the office was fired at.
No one was hurt but the glass jalousies of the office were destroyed, he added.
Sudario said they heard the sound of a motorcycle stopping in front of their office. Then bursts of gunfire hit the window of their single-story office.
“We scampered for safety as we put off the light inside the office,” Sudario said in a phone interview on Thursday.
He said they didn’t see the perpetrators, who immediately sped off on their motorcycle.
Sudario said they believed that the military could be behind the attack, an allegation that was immediately dismissed by Lt. Col. Noel Vestuir, commanding officer of the 20th Infantry Battalion based in Lope de Vega town, also in Northern Samar.
Vestuir, in a text message, said the military doesn’t harass or intimidate civilians or groups.
“That is not part of the military’s role. Our main role is to address the presence of the armed group, the New People’s Army, whose members are the ones terrorizing the civilians. Their claim is nothing but to destroy the reputation of the military without any basis,” Vestuir said.
The attack on the Bayan Muna office came several days after the arrest of a former leader of a militant farmers’ group in Northern Samar on charges of murder and frustrated murder.
Francisco Baylon was arrested last July 6 at his house in Barangay 89, San Jose, Tacloban City by a team of policemen and Army soldiers who were armed with an arrest warrant issued by Judge Decoroso Turlao of Regional Trial Court-Branch 21 based in Laoang, in Northern Samar.
Nestor Lebico, secretary general of farmers’ group Sagupa, condemned Baylon’s arrest on “trumped up charges.”
“He was arrested and detained just because he was once part of a progressive group like the Sagupa,” Lebico said on Wednesday over the phone.
Capt. Dranreb Canto, information officer of the 802nd Infantry Brigade based in Ormoc City, denied that Baylon’s arrest was due to his involvement in Sagupa. “There is a warrant issued against Baylon by the court. So, we have to enforce it,” he said.
He added that Baylon was with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army in Eastern Visayas, according to military and police reports.