By Nef Luczon and Jigger Jerusalem
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – Armed men believed to be communist New People’s Army (NPA) combatants on Thursday burned down a Christian church and four houses in the Misamis Oriental town of Opol in a pre-dawn attack, police said.
Maj. Evary E. Bacunawa, chief of the Opol Municipal Police Station, said the incident happened at around 3:30 a.m. in Zone 2, Barangay Limonda, Opol.
Police said the houses were owned by Edward Villiarias, Ronny Tingkang, Edmar Burlat and Avelino Sambulay.
Citing witnesses’ accounts, police said at least 10 armed men were involved in the attack.
Col. Roy V. Bahian, director of the Misamis Oriental Provincial Police Office, said the attack was a handiwork of the NPA’s Ace Company led by a certain Decoy.
“The Misamis Oriental Police Provincial Office strongly condemns the burning incident allegedly done by a group of NPA. The NPA’s nefarious activity is a clear manifestation of their motive to pursue their lawless acts and adds burden and suffering to the innocent civilians and the community as a whole amidst this Covid-19 pandemic. These atrocities are contrary to their claim of protecting the people,” the Misamis Oriental PPO said in a statement Thursday.
Lt. Theofratus Pia, Misamis Oriental PPO information officer, said additional military and police reinforcement have been deployed in the village and nearby communities.
“They were already there around 4:30 a.m., including police personnel under the 2nd Provincial Mobile Force Company, conducting hot pursuit operations,” Pia said.
Pia said the provincial police is mulling criminal charges against the perpetrators.
“There were no civilian injuries. Aside from the church and houses, a motorcycle was also burned,” Pia said.
He said prior to the incident, the insurgents figured in an armed confrontation with the military in Mainit, a barangay in Iligan City not far from Limonda.
Pia said the rebels probably made their retreat to Limonda and burned the structures as a diversionary tactic.
“It’s probable that they staged the burning as a diversion so they won’t be followed by the pursuing government forces,” he added.
Meanwhile, Bahian assured the public that security measures are implemented to ensure the safety of NPA’s potential targets in the province, including vital government installations, places of convergence, power lines, private companies and all police stations. (PNA)