Army downplays NPA 'attack' in Lambunao (Philippines)

Saturday's attack of communist-terrorists New People's Army (NPA) in Lambunao, Iloilo was one plain and simple extortion case. With some P1 million in total damage both to property and goods, prime objective of the local terrorists is to instill fear in locals and business community. They are also out to impress to the government with the message that their group supposedly remains a force to reckon with.


Yet for the Philippine Army in the area, everything is under control. In fact, government offensives are on the go with no let-up on its anti-insurgency campaign.

Such was the statement of Major Lyndon Sollesta of the 3rd Civil Relations Group when reached for an update by The News Today (TNT).

"We are after them, our men under Colonel John Bonafos of Task Force Panay are on the job to clear the area," he said while adding how the Lambunao incident validates intelligence report of NPA extortion and harassment activities on their identified "soft targets."

And it's the terrorists' "season" too for such criminal activities particularly since for years now the local communist hierarchy is known to have suffered lack of logistical and financial support of the community.
Sollesta said refusal of the people to cooperate and be threatened has pushed the NPAs to resort to extortion.

The Lambunao incident is believed to have been perpetuated by young recruits of the Central Front Committee under the Panay Regional Party Command of NPA commander alias Mayok.

Police were alerted of the incident hours after the delivery van of Fortune Tobacco Corporation was stopped by three armed men along Barangay Talanghawan. Salesman Jesus Tan and company driver Isidro Tee were ordered to drive towards the boundary of barangays Pasig and Bayoco where at least 25 other NPAs were waiting.

The terrorists then doused the van with gasoline and set it on fire as two men were left unharmed.
Radio reports heard Chief Inspector Ignacio Losbañes, Lambunao Police Chief saying manhunt operations continue as numerous tips were received by authorities on the sightings of the rebels.

TNT learned that Fortune Tobacco has since received an extortion letter from the NPAs demanding for an undisclosed amount passed off as revolutionary tax.

Meantime, Sollesta renewed calls for the students and parents of college students on the strategy employed by legal fronts of the communist terrorists.

Be warned, Sollesta said that the recruitment are for these youngsters to join cause-oriented groups in the guise of advocacies until the armed component comes in.

To date, insurgency drive has earned massive support in Iloilo's 1,721 barangays including those formerly known to be 'strongholds'.

Board Member Angelo Briones, president of the Liga ng mga Barangay in the province has since appealed for community-support to the government's anti-insurgency campaign and the rejection of communist ideology.
Last year Briones gathered locals in Calinog following the attack of NPAs in the area who set up a landmine in one hinterland barangay.

Briones condemned the attack saying the communist operations are nothing but acts of common criminals.

Von: 21.6.2006 By Florence F. Hibionada,

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