BUTUAN CITY – Army troopers have foiled a communist New People’s Army plot to disrupt the “Bike for Justice and Peace” event in Kitcharao, Agusan del Norte over the weekend.
In a statement Monday, the Army's 29th Infantry Battalion said that prior to the event last July 17, the unit received reports from concerned persons on the presence of armed NPA rebels in Barangay Mahayhay, one of the routes of the event.
“The information said that the NPA rebels were planning to stage a sabotage to discourage the residents to participate in the Bike for Justice and Peace activity,” the statement read.
Troopers were dispatched to secure the area last July 17 and encountered twice at least seven NPA rebels belonging to the Sandatahang Yunit Pampropaganda 16A of Guerrilla Front 16, North Eastern Mindanao Regional Committee in Purok 6 of Barangay Mahayhay.
“The encounter lasted for 25 minutes, after which, the NPA rebels, led by a certain Samuel Batican alias Popo abandoned their position and fled towards the southern portion of the barangay,” the military said.
At around 7:18 a.m. on the same day, the troopers again engaged the same group of armed insurgents in a 30-minute gunfight.
“The enemies then fled in a nearby residential area to shield themselves from the pursuing troops. The NPA rebels also fired at the houses that caused panic and fear among residents, forcing them to take safe refuge at the barangay center,” the military said.
No civilian was hurt but houses were damaged.
The soldiers also recovered personal belongings left behind by the rebels after their withdrawal from the first encounter site.
29th IB commander, Lt. Col. Aristotle Antonio, condemned the harassment of the rebels.
“The CNTs (Communist NPA Terrorists) have continuously made atrocities in many areas nationwide and inflict fear to many. Their terroristic acts only proved their real evil intentions, to terrorize our people,” Antonio said.
He also lauded the efforts of the civilians in the area for providing information to the Army on the presence of the rebels.
“We believe that we can prevent and stop the wicked intentions and actions of the enemies if we continue to work together. This peace and security concern is not ours alone, we are in this together,” Antonio said.
The bike for peace activity was carried out simultaneously nationwide in commemoration of the 40th day of the death of football player Kieth Absalon and his cousin Nolven who were killed by NPA insurgents in Masbate.
The Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. (PNA)