NPA rebels seize guns in Iloilo raid
ILOILO CITY — Heavily armed rebels of the communist-led New People’s Army (NPA) raided a police station in Maasin town in Iloilo province on Sunday morning, taking at least 12 firearms, including eight high-powered rifles.
Not a single shot was fired and none of the nine police personnel was harmed in Maasin, 31 kilometers northwest of this capital city, a day after 428 soldiers from the Army’s 82nd Infantry Battalion based here were deployed to beef up troops battling terrorists in Marawi City.
The NPA rebels, numbering between 40 and 50 including women, took eight M-16 rifles and nine Glock 9-mm pistols, according to Chief Supt. Cesar Hawthorne Binag, Western Visayas police director.
Three rebels, including two women, first entered the station around 10:30 a.m. and pretended to be residents who were filing a complaint. Several others then rushed to the station from the back entrance, Binag said.
Other comrades who came on board an Elf truck surrounded the police station beside the public market. The nine policemen were then ordered to lie down and handcuffed.
One rebel, using a megaphone, told residents to stay calm as they were only after the firearms.
Over in 15 minutes
The operation was “swift” and was over in 15 minutes, according to Binag.
He condemned the attack and said that the police would file robbery complaints against the rebels after they also commandeered a patrol car, radio, a laptop computer and personal items including cash and jewelry.
The patrol car and the truck were recovered later in the neighboring Alimodian town.
The NPA Coronacion “Waling-Waling” Chiva Command issued a statement through its Facebook page confirming that a unit of the NPA Napoleon Tumagtang Command carried out the attack.
Its spokesperson, Ka Julio Montana, accused the municipal police force of extorting from small vendors and allowing the proliferation of illegal drugs and gambling.
The raid was also in response to the “all-out war” of the police and military against the rebels, according to Montana.
Binag ordered the immediate relief of the entire 23-member police force of Maasin. He said they would be investigated for possible lapses.
Maasin Mayor Mariano Malones said this was the first time that the rebels raided the town center.
“There were encounters before during the 1980s but they never reached here,” Malones told Inquirer.
Two gun battles between NPA rebels and government troops also broke out on Saturday in Southern Mindanao where an alleged ranking communist rebel and four insurgents were killed, military officials said.
Peace negotiators on both sides earlier agreed to halt offensives and cooperate instead in fighting Islamic State-inspired terror groups in southern Philippines.
Three communist guerrillas were killed in a 45-minute clash in Taytayan village, Cateel town, Davao Oriental, before dawn on Saturday, while a front secretary and another rebel were killed in an encounter at Pantukan town, Compostela Valley, also on the same day, according to Capt. Rhyan Batchar, public affairs chief of the Army’s 10th Infantry Division.
Government troops also recovered five assault rifles, two improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and backpacks containing personal belongings, medical kits and cellular phones from the rebels.
The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) earlier recommended that the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) order the NPA to “refrain” from attacking government forces and instead focus on the proposed cooperation in neutralizing terror groups in the country.
In a statement on Sunday, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III welcomed the NDFP support of the government’s campaign against the Marawi terrorists.
“The Philippine government hereby correspondingly reciprocates with the same declaration of not undertaking offensive operations against the New People’s Army,” said Bello, the chief government peace negotiator.
He said this would pave the way for the eventual signing of a mutually agreed bilateral ceasefire agreement and agreements on social reform and economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms, and the end of hostilities and disposition of forces “toward a just and lasting peace.” —WITH REPORTS FROM PHILIP C. TUBEZA, KARLOS MANLUPIG AND FRINSTON LIM