Tight monitoring continued to be implemented around Bohol borders in a bid to intercept members of the Communist Party of the Philippines’ armed wing New People’s Army (NPA) which has reportedly been trying to reestablish a stronghold in the province.
Lt.Col Eufracio Joel Malig Jr., commander of the 47th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army assured the absence of complacency in efforts to deter rebel attacks even as the province officially maintained its insurgent-free status.
The military has been kept on alert particularly in tracking suspicious individuals who were believed to have started efforts to penetrate vulnerable communities, Malig said.
In fact, the 47th IB is now moving to determine the affiliation of some armed individuals, including women, who were reportedly spotted in some towns.
Malig assured that the military will definitely come to a conclusion to which group they belong once any of them would be arrested.
He also appreciated the cooperation of the community in reporting information about the presence of these armed individuals to authorities.
He also underscored the established grassroots partnership of government through the Countryside Development Program-Purok Power Movement (CDP-PPM) coordinated by Liza Quirog for the provincial government.
Gov. Edgar Chatto introduced the CDP-PPM when he assumed as governor on his first term and sustained the program throughout his three terms.
The military also received reports about armed men spotted in Trinidad, Baclayon and Antequera.
Malig first presented the report about the presence of armed individuals in some areas during the joint meeting of the Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) and Provincial Anti-Drug Abuse Council (PADAC) on June 29.
In the PPOC meeting on July 28, Malig updated Chatto that they are now in the process of determining the group to which the armed individuals are affiliated.
Malig reported that on July 3, nine men bringing high-powered firearms had been spotted passing the boundary between barangay Caluasan in the town of San Miguel and Isumod River in Sitio Cahayag in barangay Dagohoy in the town of Danao.
According to the report reaching the military, the armed men headed towards the sub-village of Maonglinis in barangay Kauswagan in Trinidad town.
On July 12, four men carrying high-powered firearms were spotted in barangay Kauswagan, Trinidad and seen hopping from one house to another in barangay San Vicente, Trinidad.
On July 15, another group of four men and a woman has been spotted near a house in barangay Catigbian, Buenavista and had been seen heading to Purok 5 in the same barangay.
The woman was described to be 5’2” tall and was clad in black jacket.
On the same day, five armed men, on barefoot and bringing big backpacks had been spotted in the sub-village of sitio Baclaran in barangay Tawid, Anda and heading barangay Katipunan.
The military also monitored seven activities of different groups who conducted rallies, meetings and solicitations.
The initial wave of information on armed men roving some areas in Bohol was on the sighting of seven armed men at around 10:37 p.m. on June 22 in barangay Bongbong, Trinidad.
They were seen visiting some houses during the fiesta celebration on May 23 in the area.
At around 9:30 a.m. on June 3, five armed men accompanied by two women were sighted in barangay Brgy Cambanac, Baclayon.
Malig reported that one of them was seen carrying a homemade 12-gauge shot gun and a container filled with five liters of gasoline.
“Accordingly, said group were asking foodstuff from the operator of a rock crusher machine of undisclosed construction company. Then, the armed group left the area and proceeded towards the direction to barangay Buenaventura in the same municipality,” according to Malig.
At midnight on June 7, more or less five armed men and a woman were sighted at a quarry bunkhouse in barangay Cambanac, Baclayon.
It was learned that the group came from the more populous part of Cambanac.
At around 4 p.m. on June 11, more or less five armed men were also sighted at the house in barangay Tabuan, Antequera.
Malig said the military boosted their intelligence network after the report from the Police Regional Office (PRO)-7 in Cebu that 15-20 armed men left Guihulngan City on pump boat after the NPA attack in the city.
So far, there has been no report of any armed individual entering the borders of Bohol.
The Guihulngan ambush came at around 10 a.m. on July 21 where six police officers had been killed.
Investigation showd that a team of 15 from Guihulngan City police sped off to barangay Magsaysay to respond to a report that unidentified and suspicious men had waylaid a city councilor.
At a hilly part of sitio Mandi-e, about 60 heavily armed men surprised the team with bursts of gunfire, killing six police officers.
Confirmed killed were Superintendent Arnel Arpon, city police chief; PO2 Alfredo Dunque; PO2 Alvin Bolandres; PO3 Teovic Agusto; SPO2 Nicasio Tabilon; and SPO1 Jesael Ancheta- -who were then “onboard a Mahindra multicab”.
In the early part of June, then Police Regional Director Noli Taliño already instructed the Bohol Police Provincial Office to tighten security measures upon receiving reports on the sightings of suspected NPA members.
At that time, Taliño ordered the police in Bohol to implement tight security measures on all points of entry and exit such as the ports, and the setting up of checkpoints in areas around vital installations.
BGen. Arnulfo Matanguihan, 302nd Brigade commander,Matanguihan, for his part, later said one of the personalities to watch is Domingo Compoc, a 52-year-old native of barangay Dagohoy in Bilar, who is now leading the NPA in Negros and has three standing warrants of arrests for murder and rebellion.
Compoc and his wife, Marilyn Badayos- -a native of Cebu, have reportedly been in command of the Negros operation of NPA for around a decade already.
In 2007, Compoc was reported to have been wounded in an encounter with government troops in Bohol.
Matanguihan, however, corrected earlier information leaked by other sources that Compoc had been spotted in Bohol, but said that he has to be watched for his connections here.
This is considering that Compoc used to be an NPA leader in Bohol during the communist’ heydays.
Being a native of Bilar and having previously influenced some groups here, Compoc could possibly be tapped to lead the revival attempt of NPA’s strongholds in Bohol.
Matanguihan said the military and the provincial government of Bohol have the full support of the grassroots through the Countryside Development Program-Purok Power Movement (CDP-PPM).
The people’s support earned by the provincial government helped the military establish the intelligence network.
The military, for its part, also established a systematic and tactical positioning of intelligence assets on the ground.
Chatto, for his part, believes that the “people’s participation and empowerment through the purok is the key to countryside growth and development”.
With development seeping through the grassroots level, legal fronts of the NPA and other groups who tried to destabilize the government have a hard time bringing back insurgency to Bohol.
In the Guihulngan case, the Philippine National Police assessed that the area has been a “’hotbed of insurgency’ because of the strong mass base’”, hinting family ties as the main factor.