COTABATO CITY – Communist rebels staged another land mine attack in North Cotabato on Friday, wounding two soldiers and forcing a local politician to cancel a scheduled campaign rally, the military said Saturday.
Lieutenant Nusrullah Sema, spokesperson of the Army’s 57th Infantry Battalion, said soldiers from the unit’s Bravo Company were conducting a security patrol near the village of Binay in the municipality of Magpet as part of measures to secure the May 13 elections when their truck hit a land mine believed planted by the New People’s Army around 1:15 p.m. Friday.
Sema identified the wounded soldiers as Corporal Rogelio de Vera and Private First Class Michael Abrazaldo.
“They have been rushed to a hospital and are now out of danger,” he said.
He said the incident prompted Magpet Mayor Efren Piñol, who is running for reelection, to cancel a planned campaign rally in Binay later that afternoon.
Sema said the land mine blast might also have been the NPA’s way of harassing Piñol’s campaign as the rebels have harassed other politicians who rejected their alleged demands for payment of “permit to campaign” fees in the province.
On April 22, barely a day after communist rebels sought the forgiveness of the family of Gingoog City Mayor Ruth de Lara Guingona, whom they injured in an ambush, NPA rebels in North Cotabato also harassed the campaign team of 3rd district congressional candidate Dr. Rod Escudero as they were entering Barangay Bituan in the municipality of Tulunan.
The rebels, according to the police, prevented Escudero’s campaigners from proceeding to the village and threatened them with harm if they had insisted. The rebels, numbering about 10, confiscated Escudero’s campaign materials and the public address system his campaigners were carrying.
Escudero said he did not pay any permit to campaign fee to the rebels.
Police authorities in the province had said earlier that the rebels were demanding money from North Cotabato politicians in exchange for being allowed to campaign freely in areas the rebels claim to contro.
The villages of Binay in Magpet and Bituan in Tulunan are among the places in North Cotabato that the authorities are closely watching in connection leading to the May 13 elections because of the presence of NPA rebels.
Sema said as a result of the attack on the soldiers, which proved that the rebels were a threat to the elections, the military has launched a major offensive to flush them out of Magpet.