Pastor appeals to LGU, police to restore peace in Malaybalay village

MALAYBALAY CITY (BukidnonNews.Net/19 Feb) After a series of killings and extortion activities forcing families to flee from Natidasan, Casisang, Malaybalay City, a Baptist pastor has appealed to the city government and the police to do what they can to restore peace in the village.

Pastor Daniel Asuncion of the Natidasan Christian Community Church has sought for an intervention from Mayor Ignacio W. Zubiri and the police leadership about the problem describing the situation as “the sorry state of our barangay.”

“We are praying that peace and order be restored in the area through your leadership and the initiative of our government-instituted law enforcement authorities,” he said in his letter to Zubiri on Feb. 2.

He said Zubiri vowed to look into the case and coordinate with the police.

In a subsequent interview with BukidnonNews.Net, Asuncion said they want the city government and the law enforcers to do what they can to “solve the killings”, “identify the culprits”, and “bring justice” to the victims.

He said the city government must take responsibility by taking steps such as coordinating with the military if need be to set up a composite police-military detachment in the area.

He said this step could be crucial in containing the present situation of “terrorism” in the area.

In his letter, Asuncion cited the killing of a couple and a barangay safety officer in January 2015. The cases of unresolved killings and the “known and ongoing extortion” prompted evacuation of families.

He said scores of families have fled Natidasan due to cellular phone text messages to extort. He cited two families who received the warnings and threats if they will not give in. They have left and resettled in other cities. One of the two cases figured in a strafing incident at their home early this month. No one was hurt but the family’s house and vehicle were damaged, Asuncion said.

By day time, life appears to go on like normal in the village. But many residents, Asuncion added, no longer sleep in the village. Some residents told BukidnonNews.Net they do not really know what is going on and felt no longer safe in the area.

“Presently, Natidasan folks are cowed by these lawless elements that prowl at nights. Indiscriminate gun fires are heard almost every night sending chills to children and their helpless families,” he added.

Asuncion admitted that the problem needed attention from everyone.

“I believe we are all concerned for the welfare and well-being of our people, especially those who belong to the less fortunate ones,” he added.

Meanwhile, Police Superintendent Henry Dampal, chief of police of Malaybalay City admitted that extort groups using the name of the New People’s Army (NPA) are operating in Natid-asan and other barangays in Malaybalay City’s Basakan district.

Dampal in an interview after his appearance in the city council on February 10 said that groups of bandits are responsible in a series of crime incidents and extortion activities the areas.

He said the suspects are using the name of the NPA to extort money from their targets.

He cited a group of extortionists who attacked targets in Natid-asan where the victim was harassed. A village chief in Basakan area was attacked by armed men who allegedly extorted money.

Dampal said they have strengthened their intelligence network in the barangays to repel extortion activities and other crimes.

The barangay governments, he added, have hand held radios for immediate reporting in case of crimes. He said through good communication system in the barangays and the conduct of regular roving of Barangay Public Safety Officers (BPSO), extortion activities can be stopped.

He said they conduct police patrol and police visibility in the said areas citing they do both overt and covert operations to neutralize the group.

Dampal added that they coordinate with other government agencies to solve the series of extortion activities in the said places.

Councilor Louel Tortola urged Dampal to file charges against the suspects, aside from police visibility patrol.

Dampal, however, cited their lack of personnel. He said ideally the city must have around 200 personnel based on police civilian ratio but only has around 70 members.

He said due to this constraint, they resorted to fielding police personnel to be on duty for 12 to 24 hours.

Councilor Provo Antipasado challenged the police to implement the law accordingly. (By Walter I. Balane and Mel B. Madera /BukidnonNews.Net correspondent)