It took only six guards with shotguns to repulse more than 50 heavily armed members of the New People’s Army (NPA) from entering the main facilities of a mine site in Masara, Maco, Compostela Valley early evening Sunday, July 26.
The guards of Mongoose Security Agency were on alert for the NPA attack due to information from several barangay informants and military intelligence agents. The security guards are part of the protection shield composed of various units of PNP Compostela Valley and the Alfa Company of the 46th Infantry Battalion, Philippine Army.
According to sources who are privy to the incident, the NPAs were expected to attack any of the 70 security posts of the mine site at around 5p.m. However, witnesses and civilians taken hostage by the combined forces of the NPA under three commanders asserted that Kumander Ryan Pitao alias Amaru first hesitated to penetrate the tenement due to conflicting plans of attack. Ryan, the son of the late Lencio Pitao or Kumander Parago, is allegedly trying to earn recognition by committing more banditry before the end of the 40-day mourning of this father’s death.
When bandits finally decided to approach the stockyard of one of the contractors of Apex Mining Company at around 7 p.m., the security guards fired at the rebels who were caught off-guard and scampered before returning fire with M60 machine guns, AK47, and M16 rifles. The exchange of gunfire lasted for more than 30 minutes in darkness while the rest of the Mongoose guards, soldiers from 46IB, and policemen from Maco municipality and Compostela Valley maintained their defense positions inside the mine site and waited to ambush the bandits.
However, the bandits failed to breach the defense line of the mine site. They lighted up used tires that were converted into protective shields. They set ablaze one backhoe equipment but failed to completely destroy it.
The bandits withdrew at around 8 p.m. but the flames and embers revealed their positions, enabling the mortar team of 46IB to fire at the retreating marauders.
To ensure proper police and military actions, PSSupt Albert Ignatius D. Ferro, Compostela Valley Provincial Director, personally led his quick reaction platoon and set up advance command post at the mine site together with Colonel Rey Tumaliuan, Commanding Officer of the 46th Infantry Battalion.
The Police Scene Of the Crime Office (SOCO) operatives processed the encounter site in order to provide strong evidence against NPA commanders Oyeng, Amaru, and Maros. Commanders Oyeng and Marus are already facing charges for past atrocities in Maco, Compostela Valley.
The NPAs in the province have been emboldened to stage daring and haphazard attacks against plantations, police and military posts, and mine sites due to support allegedly given by business investors in small-scale mining, illegal operations, and the political arena.
Since the takeover of the all-Filipino management team at Apex Mining Company in 2014, the company adapted the policy of not giving in to extortion and coercion. Instead, the company extended more community-based inclusive economic programs among its 15 impact barangays depriving the NPAs their mass base.