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Masbate governor hurt in ambush

Suspected NPA rebels detonated bombs

By Ephraim Aguilar, Jonas Cabiles Soltes
Southern Luzon Bureau, Philippine Daily Inquirer, INQUIRER.net
First Posted 04:01:00 01/12/2009

Filed Under: Armed conflict, Guerrilla activities

LEGAZPI CITY?Suspected communist rebels ambushed and wounded Masbate Gov. Elisa Kho at 11:30 a.m. Sunday in Cataingan town.

Masbate Police Director Teodore Sindac said Kho and her convoy were traversing the national road toward Masbate City when members of the New People?s Army (NPA) detonated two explosive devices along the road in Barangay Gahit.

Sindac said Kho was slightly wounded in the eyebrow as glass shards from her car?s windshield hit her face. An unidentified security escort was also wounded but both have been declared out of danger, Chief Superintendent Paterno Bangui, Bicol Region police chief told INQUIRER.net.

Her other security escorts were unharmed.

Sindac said Kho proceeded to the family-owned Khokha Beach in Cataingan after the ambush.

Masbate police and Army troopers from the 9th Infantry Battalion immediately launched pursuit operations to capture the perpetrators.

Sindac said the rebels were reported to have fled to the upland villages of San Rafael and Cadulauan, both in Cataingan.

Samar police alerted

Checkpoints were set up at the town boundary while the Samar provincial police were alerted to the possible withdrawal of the rebels to that province, which is across from Masbate island.

The Khos are a well-known political family in the province. Kho replaced her husband, Rep. Antonio Kho, as governor in 2007. Son Wilston is the youngest mayor of Cataingan town, having been elected at the age of 21.

The family defeated another political clan in Masbate, the Espinosas.

Masbate is one of the hotbeds of communist insurgency in the Bicol region, which will be the venue of joint Philippine and United States military exercises, called Balikatan (shoulder-to-shoulder), in April.

Birthday celebration

Two days before the ambush, Kho joined in the celebration of her husband?s birthday which was highlighted by the distribution of 50 cows to farmers

Those who reportedly attended the party were Sandra Cam, former police drug asset and admitted ?jueteng? (illegal number game) bagwoman; former Ilocos Sur Gov. Luis ?Chavit? Singson, and Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) Chair Efraim Genuino.

Ako Bikol, a non-government organization chaired by property developer Elizalde Co, spearheaded the giving away of the cows at Khokha Beach together with local government officials. Recipients included two farmers from each of the 20 municipalities and one city of Masbate.

Balikatan link

Rep. Reno Lim of Albay?s 3rd district condemned the slay try but dismissed speculation it was meant to protest the coming Balikatan exercises on the island.

Lim was one of the officials who announced the holding of the joint RP-US military games in Bicol in a press conference last week.

Masbate is the second poorest province in the country with about 80 percent of its residents living below the poverty line.

The island has long been known for rough and often violent politics. Masbate was the only province placed under Commission on Elections control in the Bicol region during the 2007 elections.

Placer attack

Communist rebels in Masbate exploded a roadside bomb and instigated firefights with government soldiers in July last year when President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her Cabinet held a cabinet meeting in Placer, another town in Masbate, to assess the damage caused by recent Typhoon ?Frank? (international codename: Fengshen).

No one was hurt in the blast, which police suspect was caused by a land mine.

A fourth-class municipality, Placer is a known hotbed of insurgency.

After a Christmas holiday ceasefire, the NPA leadership has reportedly ordered its fighters to step up attacks on government forces. Recently, a land mine was reportedly used to ambush a police car in Rizal province, the eastern flank of Metro Manila. With a report from Abigail Kwok, INQUIRER.net



Copyright 2014 Southern Luzon Bureau, Philippine Daily Inquirer, INQUIRER.net. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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