Locals' help sought to ‘subdue’ NPAs in Cordillera

By Liza Agoot

June 12, 2018, 7:50 pm

An aerial view of Sagada town in Mountain Province in Cordillera

PINUKPUK, Kalinga -- The Philippine Army in the Cordillera has again sought the community’s vigilance and support against the proliferation of members of the rebel New People’s Army (NPA) in the region.

This, as one policeman and nine other cops, including a police colonel, were killed in an encounter last June 5 between the NPA and the joint forces of the Regional Mobile Force Battalion and the Mountain Province Provincial Mobile Force Company.

“No LGUs and barangay officials would be proud to say that their area is infested with NPA because it is a negative mark on the locality and at the same time the people are denied of business, peace, and opportunities. That is what we do, partner our effort with the LGUs,” said Brig. Gen. Leopoldo Imbang, commander of the 503rd Brigade covering the Cordillera, in an exclusive interview with the Philippine News Agency (PNA).

Imbang said residents' cooperation is of utmost importance, since they are the ones living in the communities, which should be peaceful.

"It will be a concerted effort lalo na ng community doon na (especially the community that) they have to help the police, lalo na sila yung andun madalas (especially since they are always there). Importante dito (What's important here is), in order for it to be successful, it must be an integrated effort of the AFP, PNP, and the LGU,” Imbang said.

Citing Army records, Imbang said the NPAs in the Cordillera are mostly in the far-flung sitios, at the boundaries with other provinces in northern Luzon.

This, he said, is why the Army has patrol and security operations at these sites.

He added the permanent detachments of the Philippine Army are in Abra, Kalinga, and Ifugao, but there is none in Mountain Province or in Sagada, where the recent encounter happened.

Imbang explained that analyzing the situation in the Cordillera, the provinces are generally peaceful.

“Sa region, we have managed the security well, although there are some incidents like in Sagada, wherein a security patrol of the police doing barangay visitations had an encounter with the NPA,” he said.

He said residents play an important role in keeping peace and order in the community, especially in giving information on the presence of rebels in their villages or the presence of strangers.

Imbang said that based on the report of the wounded policemen, the persons they encountered were speaking in the Filipino, which is unlikely that they are Cordillerans but are personalities coming from the lowlands, from Metro Manila, or other parts of the Visayas.

He said the PNP and the AFP share intelligence and operational information, working together to ensure the safety of the community.

Imbang assured that the PNP will not stop doing their job despite the casualties.

He said the PNP is mandated to be in the community and those who had an encounter with the NPAs went to the area to confirm information on the presence of NPAs. But then, he said, the leftists were already positioned.

Imbang said the NPA situation in Sagada needs to be addressed fast, as it destroys the province’s reputation and at the same time breaks the peace in the community.

Sagada is highly visited by tourists, both local and foreign, due to its idyllic nature.

“Cordillerans are peace-loving people and they refuse the NPAs,” Imbang noted.

Kalinga police director Senior Supt. Alfredo Dangani told the PNA the provincial cops are on alert, especially after the incident.

He said unannounced checkpoints are regularly conducted as a way to keep criminals and leftist rebels at bay.

The Kalinga police, Dangani added, is also doing border patrol on a 24-hour basis, especially at night.

“Deployment and operations are intelligence driven, based on report sharing and fusion with the AFP, to preempt major crime incidents,” he said.

Kalinga is one of the areas in the region, where a number of encounters with the NPAs were recorded in the first quarter of the year, Dangani added. (PNA)