NPA torch 5 trucks; Army, police eye ‘sub-station’ in Quezon

MALAYBALAY CITY – The police and military are putting up a composite sub-station in a location in Quezon town along the Bukidnon Davao road, common site of attacks by the New People’s Army, including burning of trucks carrying fruits.

The announcement was made after about 50 rebels were reported to have torched five prime mover trucks Saturday evening in Puntian, Quezon, Bukidnon. The NPA allegedly flagged down the trucks about 9:43 p.m. in a checkpoint they put up along the highway in Purok 1, Brgy. Puntian, Quezon town. The burning was reported at about 10:30p.m.

Police S/Supt. Rustom Duran, Bukidnon police director, said the area is prone to rebel attacks especially burning of trucks.

Duran said they are planning to put up a sub-station of a composite team from the police and the army “as soon as possible”.  Lt. Col. Jose Ma. Cuerpo, chief of the 8th infantry brigade, confirmed this via telephone Monday. He added that the rebels belonged the NPA’s Front 53.

No one was reported killed in the incident, which left all five trucks “totally burned” while the trailers containing banana were “partially burned,” according to the police spot report. About 15 persons led the trucks about 500 meters to an inner road where they burned the trucks. The drivers were all released unharmed after the incident.

Police reported that two of the trucks were owned by “FSTA,” another two by “Red Bull Express,” and another one by “Bantuanon.”

Duran told this reporter the target appears to be the owners of the trucks, not the banana companies. He said the container vans carrying the fruits were left intact. Bukidnon News sources from the area said the fruit companies retrieved the cargo Sunday morning.

He said they will file arson charges against the NPA’s Randy Bayot, who allegedly led the attack.

Cuerpo said the “sub-station” should be “semi-permanent” in the area, a necessary step as alternative to the roving patrol they used in the area. He admitted that they were “handicapped on the number of personnel.”
He said they used temporary patrol bases in Puntian and Palacapao before the recent attack.

Cuerpo said the NPA took advantage of the army’s “lesser presence” and refused to admit they were outsmarted.

He also admitted that the attack happened after they pulled out the temporary patrol bases for an operation in Malaybalay City’s Upper Pulangi.
Cuerpo admitted, too, that around 8p.m. they received an intelligence report that the NPA had conducted a check point. He said he ordered personnel to check it and sent troops when it was confirmed. But he said the troops were sent to nearby Brgy. Kiburiao, which he said was en route to the rebels exit.
Police and military sources said pursuit operations are still on.

In January 2012, four soldiers of the 8th Infantry Battalion were confirmed injured when an unidentified number of suspected communist rebels ambushed them in Quezon, Bukidnon.

According to Cuerpo then, the soldiers were sent to respond to a report that rebels, who were believed to be of the New People’s Army’s Guerilla Front 53, torched two prime mover trucks for lease in Sitio Maloos, Sinuda, Kitaotao town. Cuerpo said they have confirmed that one of the trucks was leased by Sumifru banana firm.

Lt. Jorge Jallorina, spokesperson of the 8th IB, said that the reinforcement sent was ambushed at Overview, Palacapao, Quezon and were hit by landmines which wounded four soldiers.

The torching incident, reported to be have occurred early morning, was in the same area where four officers of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology were abducted last year. (Walter I. Balane/Bukidnon News)