2 NPA attacks mar peace bid
A day after government and communist rebel negotiators announced the resumption of peace talks, New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas burned a bus in Mindanao and wounded five policemen in an ambush in northern Luzon.
Suspected NPA members torched on Monday a Davao City-bound Yellow Bus in Makilala, North Cotabato province, police said.
Another NPA group wounded five policemen in an ambush on the convoy of Senior Supt. Alexander Tagum, Abra police director, while they were on their way to visit a police station that was attacked on Sunday night in the province’s Malibcong town.
Tagum was not hurt. He was accompanied by a platoon of police officers when they were ambushed at Sitio Aguibo in Barangay Poblacion.
The attacks did not violate any ceasefire agreement between the government and the communist-led National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), as no cessation of hostilities had yet been declared.
In a joint statement issued on Saturday in Utrecht, The Netherlands, government and NDFP representatives, who held back-channel negotiations, agreed that indefinite unilateral ceasefire declarations would be issued before the fourth round of talks in the first week of April.
The two sides are scheduled to meet in Oslo, Norway, on April 2-7 to resume the next round of talks, which were scuttled last month.
Makilala bus burning
The rebels lifted their unilateral ceasefire on Feb. 10 after accusing the government of failing to release all political prisoners and the military of deploying troops in rebel-held areas.
The Duterte administration responded by scrapping its own unilateral ceasefire and suspending the peace talks.
Supt. Roneo Galgo, spokesperson of the police in Central Mindanao, said suspected NPA members flagged down the bus at Barangay San Vicente in Makilala town at 8:30 a.m. on Monday.
Victor Serondo, the bus driver, said six rebels boarded the bus, introduced themselves as NPA members and directed him to drive toward Sitio Bagong Silang in Barangay San Vicente.
“One of the suspects drew a pistol and told me to divert the vehicle to the secluded area toward San Vicente village,” Serondo said.
“The suspects ordered us to vacate the bus and look for a safe place before they set it on fire,” the driver said. He and the passengers were unharmed.
Galgo said the attackers belonged to the NPA’s Guerrilla Front 72 operating in Makilala and in Bansalan, Davao del Sur province.
The attack came five days after NPA rebels killed four policemen in an ambush in Bansalan.
In Abra, PO2 Jessie Trinidad, PO1 Marlon dela Paz, PO1 Gerome Baldos, PO1 Kennon Sanggoy and PO1 Von Harold Layao were wounded when their vehicle hit an explosive device, followed by a burst of gunfire, according to Insp. Marcy Grace Marron, Abra police information officer.
The five policemen were brought to Abra Provincial Hospital in Bangued, the capital town.
Marron said probers did not know if the attackers were the same rebels who raided a house that was serving as the temporary police station in Malibcong.
Five Malibcong policemen engaged 30 armed men in a 10-minute gun battle at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday.
The firefight stopped when town elders intervened, allowing the five policemen to retreat to the house of Mayor Romando Bacuyag.
The Malibcong police station is under construction so the police there have been using Bacuyag’s property as headquarters.
But the rebels managed to ransack the temporary police station, and fled with police-issued weapons, Marron said.
They took off with seven rifles, three pistols and three cell phones.