Davao City, Philippines – Facilities of Davao-based Lapanday Foods Corporation and two other structures were attacked separately last Saturday, 29 April 2017, by members of the New People’s Army (NPA). The attacks left a ranch security guard and a local fish vendor wounded while a suspected member of the NPA was reportedly killed.
NPA – Southern Mindanao Regional Operations Command spokesperson Rigoberto Sanchez in a statement said: “The 1st Pulang Bagani Battalion NPA-SMR victoriously launched three simultaneous tactical offensives in Davao City against Lorenzo-owned companies and ranch starting at around 2 a.m. today.” The statement noted that the guards at Lapanday’s two box plants in Barangay Mandug were disarmed before several machineries in the plant were set ablaze.
Witnesses from the maintenance crew of Rancho Palos Verdes Golf and Country Club reported hearing gunshots at a little past three in the morning; afterwards, a billow of black smoke was seen rising from the area of the box plant.
Sanchez said “the NPA attack served as punitive action against the Lorenzos for their numerous crimes against agricultural workers, peasants, and Lumads.”
Aside from the Lapanday box plants being burned down, the NPA rebels also attacked the guard house of the Lorenzo farm located at along Barangay Pangyan, Calinan District. They also set fire to plastic-processing plant Macondray Plastic Plant in Barangay Bunawan.
Reports further state that more or less 80 armed men were involved in the said attacks, utilizing a ten-wheeler truck, one sports utility vehicle (Montero Sport), one family van (Toyota Innova), and some motorcycles.
A joint police-military team immediately pursued the attackers: After their lead vehicle was hit by an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) a 30-minute firefight ensued which left rebel troops running in all directions. Ten suspected NPA rebels were caught and put under police custody, one other NPA rebel was found dead.
As of late, clearing and pursuit operations are ongoing, government security forces are conducting checkpoints while closely coordinating with the City Government of Davao to address the immediate needs of the affected people.
Mayor Duterte vs. the NPA
The attacks have been soundly condemned by Davao City Mayor and presidential daughter Sara Duterte as acts of terrorism, and a personal insult—especially in light of how Davao City has been supportive, she claims, of peace talks. Her statement scored the NPA for being “an organization that is not worthy of our trust and respect.
A group calling itself the Pambangsang [sic] Katipunan ng mga Magbubukid – Southern Mindanao Region released a statement pointing out that Mayor Duterte’s husband Mans Carpio is a legal counsel of Lapanday. The statement endorsed the NPA attack as a punishment on Lorenzo-owned businesses “for oppressing peasants and Lumad who are victims of their direct land-grabbing and exploitative schemes through onerous growership contracts.” Mayor Duterte condemned this group as well.
Though peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines, New People’s Army, and National Democratic Front of the Philippines (CPP-NPA-NDFP) have been gaining traction, these provocations could not have been more ill-timed: The Lapanday attack occurred during the Philippine hosting of the 2017 ASEAN Summit in Manila, and just before a visit of Indonesian President Joko Widodo to Davao.