Aid distribution in Cotabato called off after ambush try on social workers
KIDAPAWAN CITY, Cotabato, Philippines — Social workers called off on Friday the distribution aid under the Social Amelioration Program (SAP) to indigent families of a far-flung village in Cotabato province after armed men believed to be New People’s Army (NPA) rebels attempted to ambush them, police said.
The social workers, escorted by police and soldiers, were heading to Barangay Tubaran of Tulunan town when tipped of an impending attack, said Maj. Jun Napat, Tulunan town police chief.
The village is known to be rebel-infested with a strong mass support base, Napat added.
Soldiers belonging to the Army’s 39th Infantry Battalion clashed with NPA rebels around 5:30 a.m. on Friday.
The soldiers served as an advanced party to the team of social workers who were aboard police and Army vehicles.
Napat said the guerrillas were positioned on both sides of the road leading to Tubaran when soldiers on foot patrol noticed them.
A 30-minute gunfight ensued with no reported fatalities on either side.
Napat said the communist rebels may have intended to rob the cash that the government social workers were bringing.
According to Napat, the NPA rebels in the area is led by a certain Eusebio Cranzo of Guerrilla Front 72.
Probers recovered empty shells from an AK-47 rifle, the rebels’ usual firearm; empty shells for an M-203 grenade launcher, and empty shells for M-16 assault rifles.
Napat said government social workers were studying the possibility of conducting the aid distribution in a nearby safer village.
Earlier, the Communist Party of the Philippines warned agencies and organizations not to bring military escorts in delivering relief assistance into rebel stronghold areas.
The NPA’s unilateral ceasefire expired on April 30.
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