Davao cops’ bravery in foiling NPA’s bid to overrun cop station cited
MATI CITY, Davao Oriental – Policemen bravely fought and repulsed dozens of communist rebels in a bloody but futile attempt to overrun the police station here on Sunday night, authorities said.
At least five people– two New People’s Army rebels and three soldiers were killed in a 30-minute gun battle that saw the attackers setting off an improvised bomb hitting an army unit out to reinforce the beleaguered policemen, said Senior Supt. Jose Carumba, Davao Oriental police chief.
Disguised as soldiers, some 30 rebels arrived on the Mati Police Station in Madang village shortly after 7 p.m. and immediately barged into the two-storey building and started firing, police said.
Police Officer 1 Albert dela Peña, desk officer, was seated at the front lobby when a truck and three passenger vans pulled up outside and men in military fatigues brandishing rifles poured out and rushed to the station.
“They shouted for me to drop on the floor as several men with weapons ganged up on and frisked me. I was then ordered to guide them to the upper floor, and in the process I was able to maneuver and head straight to the office of our chief of police where I found a rifle and joined in the ensuing firefight,” dela Peña told the Inquirer.
The facade and the interior walls of the building bore bullet holes as the firefight raged on for more than 20 minutes, with the rebels forced to withdraw in disarray as one of their comrades was killed and several others wounded.
Fighting was intense and at close quarters as policemen tried to prevent the attackers from massing in the upper floor of the building, said Chief. Insp. Benito Recopuerto, Mati City police chief.
Three soldiers were also killed and four others hurt in a landmine explosion set off by the NPA against a convoy of reinforcing troops from the 701st Infantry Brigade, said Col. Bienvinido Datuin, brigade commander.
Recopuerto and several of his men were responding to a police complaint elsewhere in the city so he was not inside the station when the attack happened.
Upon being notified by text that his men were under fire, the police chief and his companions returned to the station using an alternate route as rebels have set up numerous blocking forces.
They then reinforced their colleagues and joined in driving away the rebels, a police officer present during the attack said.
“(The rebels) had a sniper at a vantage position in the barangay hall some 200 meters away so we had to move very carefully,” said the police officer who requested that his name be withheld.
“I was off-duty the time and loitering with colleagues at the kitchen behind our station when shots rang out. I grabbed a rifle and joined the firefight,” he said.
Police Officer 3 Babao, the lone policeman hurt, was now being treated for gunshot wound in the hand at the Southern Philippine Medical Center (SPMC) in Davao City, said Carumba.
He said they were still validating reports about a dead rebel and two wounded rebels found in the city’s outlying villages on Monday morning.
Police recovered the truck and three vans used by the attackers.
The truck, believed hijacked from Pantukan town, in Compostela Valley, was loaded with 31 backpacks containing handguns, grenades, improvised explosives and medical supplies.
Authorities said they have received reports of possible attacks by the NPA since December so an augmentation force from the provincial public safety company had to be deployed at the station, which proved helpful in defending the facility.
Gov. Corazon Malanyaon said she “was saddened by the incident, but consoled by the fact that no civilian was harmed and our (security forces) were able to thwart the attack.”
“They (security forces) assured us that there is nothing to fear. The (regional athletic meet) will definitely push through,” said Malanyaon, dousing fears of the possible scrapping of the Davao Regional Athletic Association (DAVRAA) meet due to security concerns.
The governor also commended the city police force for putting up a fight.
Slated Feb. 24-26 in Mati, the annual regional athletic meet is expected to draw at least 5,000 participants and guests all over Southern Mindanao.
Military and police officials called the incident an isolated case in an attempt by the NPA to project strength.
“The fact that the vehicles were owned by residents of Compostela Valley points to the fact the attackers are not from Mati or from Davao Oriental,” Carumba said when asked if the attack was a slap to security forces after the military last year declared Davao Oriental as insurgency-free.
“This was an isolated case meant to project the (NPA) as a force to reckon with, when in fact they have already become insignificant, a spent force,” Datuin said, even as he slammed the rebels for using landmines “which is a gross human rights violation.”
Pursuit operations against the rebels have continued, Datuin said, with the military deploying armored personnel carriers (APCs) to hunt the attackers.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.