Mindanao suffers increased violence in the third week of February, ahead of NPA anniversary.
In the third week of February 2013, the number of violent activities supposedly perpetrated by NPA rebels in the restive Mindanao region was found to have increased significantly vis-à-vis the preceding week of the month. Fully more than fifteen violent incidents reportedly attributable to the NPA occurred in the third week of the month, a figure that far outstrips the six similar incidents that took place in the preceding week.
While other outbreaks of violence not involving the NPA were also reported in Mindanao during February’s third week, including violations of the gun ban, violence connected with the illicit trade in drugs, and operations of organized crime groups, by and large NPA action has accounted for a majority of the violence occurring in the region during the said week.
Here’s a breakdown of NPA atrocities during the period:
Assassination. Jobert Bal-ot of Barangay Cantapoy in Malimono, Surigao del Norte was assassinated by suspected NPA rebels on February 19.
Abduction. CAFGU Active Auxiliary member Ronald Macasarte was abducted in the afternoon of February 14 in Tagbina, Surigao del Sur by suspected armed rebels. A joint military-police force has been launched to rescue Macasarte.
Ambush. The army personnel of the 66th Infantry Battalion, who were assigned to a humanitarian task force and were on the way to help rebuild typhoon-damaged areas, were ambushed on the highway of Tagum City in Davao del Norte by suspected NPA rebels on the morning of February 16. Said force used an improvised landmine and fired at the soldiers, instigating a brief firefight that injured a soldier and also damaged the truck.
Theft or confiscation of weapons. On February 14, guards assigned to a farm in Gingoog City, Misamis Oriental owned by the family of gubernatorial candidate Wen Militante were disarmed by a suspected NPA rebel team. Five days later, in the morning of February 19, armed men who said they were NPA members confiscated high-powered firearms from the Carmen, Surigao del Sur home of environmental activist Isidro Olan. Additionally, in the evening of the same day, an armed contingent of the NPA took charge of a bus on the National Highway on Impasug-ong in Bukidnon, forcing a PNP team assigned to Manolo Fortich to surrender, and subsequently confiscated their firearms.
Attacks directed against private companies. On different occasions during said period, the NPA allegedly assaulted several private facilities or planned to do so. On February 19, for instance, facilities owned and operated by Del Monte Philippines and Dole Philippines in Bukidnon came under attack by large numbers of suspected NPA rebels. Approximately 40 armed men assaulted the Agro Farm North Skyland STANFILCO in Impasug-ong, belonging to Dole Philippines, while about other groups of armed men burned two facilities belonging to Del Monte Philippines’ warehouse in Sumilao and several items of heavy equipment, including tractors, backhoes and pay loaders, in Manolo Fortich. Both assaults have been attributed to retribution over failed rebel efforts to extort these companies. The attacks were apparently preceded by an order issued by NPA Northern Mindanao spokesperson Ka Oris “Jorge Madlos” to all guerilla fronts to step up their tactical offensive versus large-scale plantations and mining operations. On the same day, information was also received that the NPA was planning to attack the Tubay, Agusan del Norte facility of the San Roque Metals mining company as punishment for supposed violation of environmental laws.
Attacks on police stations. In Lagonglong, Misamis Oriental, supposed NPA combatants attacked the Philippine National Police’s Regional Public Safety Battalion in the early hours of the morning on February 22, engaging the police in a firefight.
Extortion. Suspected NPA rebels attempted to extort “revolutionary taxes” from small mining operations in Malimono, Surigao del Norte on February 15. However, in other circumstances, NPA rebels were also found to be colluding with other small-scale mining operations in the same province in order to work together against larger-scale mining companies.
Some analysts have attributed this uptick in violence allegedly involving the NPA to the fact that the rebel group is to celebrate its 44th anniversary on March 29, and as such is beginning to assert itself even more than in preceding weeks. If such is indeed the case, then it may be in order to expect and prepare for further escalation in the days ramping up to the NPA’s anniversary. This assessment should also be considered alongside the aforementioned order to step up tactical operations against large mining and plantation operations in Northern Mindanao.