Army vows intensified operations vs NPA in NCotabato
John Unson (The Philippine Star) - March 1, 2013 - 1:50pm

COTABATO CITY, Philippines - The Army on Friday vowed to swiftly address the renewed incursions by the New People’s Army (NPA) in North Cotabato’s restive Makilala town in retaliation of its heavy losses in recent encounters with government forces.

Brig. Gen. Ademar Tomaro, commander of the Army’s 602nd Brigade in Carmen, North Cotabato, told The Star that the NPA’s two atrocities this week in Makilala -- a landmine attack, and the disarming of Moro residents by rebels disguised as soldiers enforcing the election gun ban -- were part of the group’s continuing retaliations after having been badly defeated in a series of encounters with soldiers in the past eight months.

“The NPAs have been dislodged from their camps in North Cotabato after several weeks of military operations. Now they are retaliating and sadly, it’s the civilians who suffer most from their retaliations,” Tomaro said.

Tomaro said their community patrols in the areas vulnerable to NPA attacks will continue on a daily basis, as part of the security measures meant to prevent them from regaining control of the villages they once subjected to excessive taxation activities.

“Good enough, civilian communities and local leaders are helping monitor their activities and their tactical maneuvers,” Tomaro said.

Tomaro said NPAs disguised as Army soldiers enforcing the election gun ban divested Moro villagers of their firearms in a daring raid in a remote district in Makilala on Monday.

At least 60 NPA rebels arrived at Barangay Lacobe and pretended as members of the government’s security force implementing the election gun ban.

Some of the Moro farmers in Barangay Lacobe are members of the Moro National Liberation Front, which signed a peace pact with the national government on September 2, 1996, while some villagers serve as volunteers in a local militia helping the police and military maintain law and order in the area.

After collecting the firearms of the villagers, the rebels hurriedly left.

Tomaro said he has ordered the 57th Infantry Battalion to immediately deploy soldiers in the surroundings of Barangay Lacobe to prevent the rebels from coming back.

Tomaro said another group of NPAs on Tuesday blasted a landmine planted along a farm-to-market road in Barangay Bulatukan, also in Makilala.

Tomaro said the bombing was meant to scare farmers in the area and force them into shelling out “protection money” on a regular basis.

Combatants of Army units under the 602nd Brigade have been trying to clear landmines and booby traps the NPAs planted in certain spots in the surroundings of Barangay Bulatukan for two months now.

“These kinds of armaments are prohibited by international laws,” Tomaro said.

He said they will maintain a high visibility of soldiers in flashpoint areas in Makilala as part of the measures aimed at protecting hapless villagers from NPA harassments.

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