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Mayor’s bodyguard killed in NPA raid on Northern Samar town

/ 11:39 PM January 22, 2012

CATARMAN, Northern Samar—Communist guerrillas raided a town 100 kilometers from here, killing the bodyguard of the town mayor and fleeing with firearms seized from a small police force that was caught flatfooted by the attack.

In a report, the Army’s 34th Infantry Battalion said at least 60 guerrillas descended on the town of Lapinig and proceeded to the mayor’s house in Barangay (village) Poblacion del Sur, which is near the town’s port.

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Arriving on a dump truck that was believed seized from a construction firm earlier, the guerrillas tried to enter the house of Mayor Romualdo Menzon, apparently planning to abduct him, said the Army report.

The rebels, however, met gunfire from Aurelio Jullata, one of Menzon’s bodyguards, who rushed to the scene after learning of the attack.

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As they entered the town, the guerrillas planted land mines and fired upon other houses aside from the mayor’s.

The mayor was not at home when the guerrillas came. The mayor said in a phone interview that he was out supervising operations against illegal fishing at the time.

The military report said bodyguard Jullata probably thought that his boss was at home so he proceeded to the mayor’s house where he clashed with the guerrillas.

“I really don’t have any idea as to their purpose of going to our house,” said Menzon, 59, who is on his second term as Lapinig mayor.

Finding the mayor not at home and encountering resistance from Jullata, the military said the guerrillas went on a rampage. They opened fire at a house next to the mayor’s, wounding Romeo Senobio Sr. and his son Romeo Jr.

Menzon said the father and son were taken to the district hospital in Arteche town.

According to the military, the guerrillas also looted the house of the Senobios.

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The military said the guerrillas next attacked the house of Police Officer 3 Rowena Opena, disarmed her, ransacked her home and beat her up outside in front of neighbors.

Menzon, however, said the policewoman was not harmed but just disarmed by the guerrillas.

The guerillas, still according to the military, proceeded to the town police station on the ground floor of the municipal hall in front of the town plaza, which was at the time teeming with people rehearsing for the town’s annual celebration of Ati-Atihan on January 29.

Children who were at the rehearsal, according to the military, fell silent at the sight of the guerrillas who were entering the police station, which was then manned only by five policemen, led by their chief, Inspector Alex Mendez.

There was no exchange of gunfire at the police station but the guerrillas cut off power at the municipal hall before fleeing to Barangay Imelda.

Menzon said it was the first time that the rebels attacked Lapinig, which has a population of 14,000 in 15 villages.

Hours after the guerrilla attack, the town returned to normal although residents expressed fears the guerrillas might return.

“We are still jittery over this incident,” said Mayor Menzon. “But this will not stop me from doing my duties as mayor of our town.”

Colonel Oscar Lopez, commanding officer of the 803rd Infantry Brigade based in Catarman, said he had ordered pursuit operations against the rebels.

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TAGS: Acts of terror, Communist Insurgency, Lapinig, New People’s Army, Northern Samar, NPA raid, Philippines – Regions, Unrest
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