Convoy picking up vaccines escapes ambush in Samar
TACLOBAN CITY, Leyte, Philippines — All police stations in Eastern Visayas region have been put on alert after a government convoy on its way to pick up COVID-19 vaccines in Palo town, Leyte province, escaped an ambush allegedly staged by communist rebels last week.
“We strongly condemn this treacherous, malevolent and desperate act of the enemy which compromised the noble purpose of delivering basic services to the people of Eastern Visayas,” said Police Brig. Gen. Ronaldo de Jesus, regional police director.
A police patrol car and a service vehicle of the City Health Office of Calbayog City in Samar were heading to Palo to pick up vaccines from the Department of Health when passengers heard a burst of gunfire, followed by an explosion, 20 meters away along the national highway at Barangay Lale in Pinabacdao town, Samar.No one, however, was hurt.
Police said the suspects, whom they believed to be New People’s Army (NPA) rebels, fled after policemen tried to engage them in a shootout. Recovered from the area were a 7.31-meter (24 feet) electric wire, a fired cartridge of 5.56mm and an improvised shotgun made from PVC pipes.
Pinabacdao Mayor Teodorico Mabag, in a statement, condemned the attack and described it as “a form of harassment and intimidation.”
“This incident is intolerable and has no place in our municipality,” he said.
In a statement on Tuesday, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said: “The (Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA-National Democratic Front of the Philippines’) height of insensitivity, callousness and opportunism knows no bounds. They kill and terrorize regardless of target, place or situation.”
Año ordered the Philippine National Police to assign more law enforcers in COVID-19 vaccination operations to ensure the smooth and efficient rollout of vaccines in communities and to maintain peace and order.
“I directed the police to deploy officers to secure the activities of COVID-19 teams, especially in areas still under communist terror threats,” he said.