Thursday, August 3, 2017

Police, Army investigate torching of quarrying equipment in Siaton

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 1): Police, Army investigate torching of quarrying equipment in Siaton

The Philippine National Police (PNP) and the 79th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army in Negros Oriental are digging deeper into the circumstances surrounding the burning of two heavy equipment of a quarrying firm in Barangay Caticugan, Siaton town last week.

Chief Insp. Varie Villanobos, police chief of Siaton, disclosed on Tuesday there could be a other motive in the incident, although they are not yet rejecting the possibility that the New People’s Army (NPA) is responsible for the torching of the equipment.

But that now seems unlikely, Villanobos said, as it became clearer to police investigators that the mode by which the perpetrators carried out the arson early Sunday was not NPA style.

Lt. Col. Roderick Garcia, 79th IB commander, also pointed out similar observations, even as he assured the people that the Army is constantly monitoring the possible presence of suspected Communist NPA terrorists in the southern parts of Negros Oriental.

Around 1:00 a.m. Sunday, five men on board three motorcycles arrived at the quarry site in Sitio Pilapil, Barangay Caticugan and set on fire a payloader and a backhoe owned by Medalla Sia of Medalla Construction.

After torching the heavy equipment, the perpetrators fired at the windshields of the backhoe and payloader and shouted, “Mabuhay ang NPA,” before fleeing under the cover of darkness.

Responding police and military personnel retrieved 45 pieces of fired cartridge, three ammunition for carbine, nine fired cartridge of caliber 9-mm, two live ammunition for caliber 9-mm Luger, a deformed slug of undetermined caliber, and a gallon of gasoline.

Based on the report, Garcia noted that the NPA does not “waste their bullets”, rather save them for encounters with government troops, and that the Communist terrorist group’s weapons do not include carbine rifles and 9-mm handguns.

Villanobos added that while they initially considered the NPA as perpetrators, he pointed out that anybody can just shout and claim that they are NPA members.

But going deeper into the investigation, Villanobos disclosed that there were previous incidents that are now being investigated as possibly related to the torching of the heavy equipment.

These previous incidents are related to the quarrying activity in Caticugan, he said.

These include the recent death of a young girl at the quarry site, complaints from residents who alleged the quarrying operations are illegal, the alleged involvement of some politicians who are either for or against the quarrying operations. A similar incident occurred a few months ago where unidentified perpetrators also fired their guns at the quarry site.

Some residents have already complained to then Secretary Gina Lopez of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to look into the alleged illegal quarrying at Caticugan.

Meanwhile, Garcia allayed fears of residents in Siaton and nearby towns over what they believe as a resurgence of insurgency in the area.

The Army commander said that he does not believe that the NPA was responsible for the Caticugan burning incident, nevertheless, his troops are continuously conducting patrols and monitoring in the areas following the Guihulngan City ambush where six policemen and a civilian were killed by suspected Communist terrorists last July 21.

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