MANILA – Two Cabinet officials have condemned “in the strongest sense” the burning of four houses and a chapel in Opol, Misamis Oriental, allegedly by communist rebels on Thursday (May 28).
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Carlito Galvez Jr. blamed members of the New People’s Army (NPA), saying that their objective is to “instill fear, anger and violence among village folk, the same people they profess to serve but in reality, they continue to use and abuse.”
Galvez lamented that the act was committed amid the prevailing coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) health crisis.
“With the health crisis our nation is currently facing, who, in their right minds, would carry out such a devious, cowardly act? That instead of helping our marginalized brothers and sisters overcome this ordeal, their homes and place of worship are turned to ashes,” he said in a statement.
He pointed out that while communist insurgents wanted social justice, they themselves violated human rights.
“The Reds can no longer deny the reality that the cause they have been fighting for decades, has become a mere anachronism. They cry for social justice, but they themselves, are the main violators of human rights. This skewed perspective must come to an end,” he said.
He said there was no place for organizations whose only interest is “self-preservation.”
“The real intent of these communist insurgents has been unmasked and they have nowhere to go,” he said.
Galvez also vowed to bring the perpetrators to justice.
“The Duterte administration would like to assure the people of Opol that it will exhaust all means possible in order to bring the perpetrators to justice. The long arm of the law will soon be upon them and justice will be served accordingly,” he said.
Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Martin Andanar also decried the incident done by those who claimed to “champion the common people”, describing it as “disturbing” and “unforgivable”
“To destroy the properties and place of worship and to possibly endanger the lives of innocent people are dastardly acts by themselves, but to commit them at a time when many of our countrymen are already reeling from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic is extraordinarily callous and inhumane,” he said in a separate statement.
He echoed Galvez, assuring that authorities “exhaust all means” to capture the suspects and punish them according to the law.
Andanar, who is also Cabinet Officer for Regional Development and Security for Northern Mindanao (CORDS 10), vowed to help coordinate with the local government and the concerned government agencies to ensure that those affected are given the assistance that they need.
He also vowed to remain updated on the developments regarding the incident until the matter is resolved.
Citing witnesses’ accounts, local police said at least 10 armed men were involved in the attack.
Misamis Oriental Provincial Police Office director Col. Roy V. Bahian said the attack was a handiwork of the NPA’s Ace Company led by a certain Decoy.
Prior to the incident, Misamis Oriental PPO information officer, Lt. Theofratus Pia said the rebels 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.
No civilians were injured, he said. (ia/PNA)