CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – At least 100 New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas raided the town of Kinoguitan, Misamis Oriental, on Tuesday and seized firearms from retired and active government soldiers.
Lieutenant Colonel George Banzon, chief of the 58th Infantry Battalion based in Misamis Oriental, confirmed the NPA raid and said government forces are closing in on the guerrillas.
Kinoguitan is a coastal town in Misamis Oriental located between Cagayan de Oro City and Gingoog City.
Mayor Jojo Lagbas, of Kinoguitan, said the rebels, who were in full battle gear, set up checkpoints along the highway but did not flag down vehicles.
“They were apparently preventing soldiers from coming in from CDO [Cagayan de Oro] or Gingoog,” Lagbas said in a radio interview.
He said while some rebels manned the road block, another group went on a house-to-house search.
Lagbas said the rebels apparently knew the location of houses of active and retired soldiers and the firearms they kept.
Most of the weapons seized by the guerrillas are handguns, according to Banzon.
“They went directly to houses and took firearms,” Lagbas said, adding that no one was hurt in the attack.
In the radio interview, Lagbas also appealed to the Army not to launch attacks as there are civilians in the town center and in their houses.
Lagbas also ordered police to establish defensive positions around the town hall and the rebels’ possible escape route.
The rebels stayed in the town center until around 10 a.m. after arriving there past 7:00 a.m. “They did not hurt civilians,” said the mayor.
Banzon said the raid in Kinoguitan could be a diversionary tactic by the guerrillas to take the heat off comrades who are under fire in Army operations in the town’s mountainous areas.
Last year, the NPA also raided villages in Claveria, a hinterland town east of Cagayan de Oro City.
Tuesday’s raid came seven days after the government lifted a ceasefire declaration against the communist group.
It was the second NPA raid in Mindanao since the guerrillas’ own ceasefire declaration expired last January 15.
On Friday last week, communist rebels raided a banana plantation owned by multinational firm Dole-Stanfilco in Tago, Surigao del Sur, and cut down at least 15,000 fully grown banana plants.
On January 17, NPA guerrillas also abducted a soldier and a policeman at a roadblock in Laak, Compostela Valley. Edwin O. Fernandez, Inquirer Mindanao