Catanduanes Police on Alert vs NPA Attacks

Sunday, March 28th, 2010

LEGAZPI CITY, March 26- As the campaign period for local candidates started Friday, the Bicol regional police office based here has placed all its field units the island province of Catanduanes under heightened alert against possible retaliatory attacks by communist guerrillas for recent setbacks suffered from intensified military operations in the area.

Chief Supt. Cecilio Calleja Jr., the Bicol Philippine National Police (PNAP) director, said he had reports from Catanduanes police provincial director Senior Supt. Rodegelio Gerero on plans of the New People's Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), to sow terror as retaliatory acts during the local poll campaign.

The NPA was not able to maximize its collection of permit-to-campaign and permit-to-win fees from local candidates due to massive military and police operations in the province that resulted to rebel life casualties, firearm losses and recovery by government operatives of valuable documents of high intelligence value, Calleja said.

"The communist rebels in Catanduanes are planning to attack vital installations, harass unfriendly political campaigners and intensify extortion activities that victimize farmers, fishermen and businessmen both small and big traders," the Bikol top cop said.

Finding that the province is a good source of extortion money being top abaca producer in the country and rich in marine resources that had attracted many businessmen, Calleja said the island suddenly became a stronghold of the communist armed movement by shifting its forces from several parts of the Bicol mainland about eight years ago.

In his report, Gerero said that in 2005, the rebel movement raised about P9.2 million in extortion money through its Rebolusyunaryong Buwis sa Kaaway na Uri in Catanduanes.

Due to an intensified campaign of the government to flush out of the island province the rebels however, the collection was significantly trimmed down, Gerero added without mentioning figures.

The latest setback suffered by the rebels was in an encounter with Philippine Army (PA) troopers in Caramoran town where two NPA cadres were killed and six high-powered rifles lost to government operatives.

Lt. Col. Romeo Basco, commanding officer of the PA's 83rd Infantry Battalion based in Catanduanes, in a separate report said that last March 15, his troops encountered the rebels numbering about 30 fully armed cadres that included five women while collecting revolutionary tax from residents in Barangay Buenavista.

The presence of the rebels was tipped off by a resident through a text message to the PA, Basco said.

"There may be as many as five more casualties in the rebel side based on traces of blood at the encounter scene and eyewitness accounts," he said.

No casualty was sustained by the government troops and recovered from the scene were three M-16 rifles, two M-14 rifles, a carbine, an anti-personnel mine with blasting cap, five magazines with M-14 ammunition, five magazines with M-16 ammo, five bandoliers, and a hand-held VHF radio, Basco said.

The items included notebooks, writing pads and a diary that detailed reports on the NPA's monitoring of police and Army movements, complaints against alleged human rights violators, and name of supporters in the barangays.

Last Feb. 19, another PA platoon clashed with a big band of NPA rebels in Barangay Maysuram where one NPA was killed.

Of interest to the government, Basco said, of the items recovered is a notebook listing the cards and the names of politicians to whom some 200 PTC cards have already been distributed.

"We are on a no-let up campaign to rid the island of insurgents before the end of Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's term this year. Catanduanes residents are all-out helping us by way of giving us information through text messaging the presence of the communist armed group in the area," he added. (PNA)