After reports surfaced indicating that New People’s Army (NPA) rebels visited several houses in Sevilla to gain villagers’ sympathy last month, the Philippine Army on Wednesday confirmed the presence of members of the communist group in the insurgency-free province but clarified that they are mostly unarmed “organizers.”
Colonel Ignacio Madriaga, commander of the 302nd Infantry Brigade, said that these organizers are out to gain sympathy from residents and ultimately reestablish a stronghold in the province where NPA activity was at its height in the 1990’s.
“Hindi ko naman ipagkakaila na may presensya ng mga NPA pero hindi ito mga local, yung iba galing sa mga ibang lugar pero ito ay mga organizers,” he said.
Madriaga also supported the statement of the Sevilla police which indicated that the group of men who talked to residents of Barangay Calinginan Norte and shared insights on the government and rising prices of basic commodities in late January were NPA organizers and not armed rebels.
“Halos parehas kami ng police [information] kasi nagpapalitan kami, may intelligence exchange kami,” Madriaga said.
The acting police chief of Sevilla, SPO4 Crikito Curayag, earlier said that the group of at least three men claimed to be members of the NPA but were apparently not in possession of firearms.
“Tulo lang kono ang mosaka sa balay pero dihay mga kauban nga namatikdang naa sa gawas nagpaabot,” said Curayag.
Despite the surfacing of various reports on NPA presence, Madriaga said that the province still meets the requirements needed to be deemed insurgency-free.
He however did not discount the possibility that there are armed members of the communist group in the province but said that they are very low in number.
“Na-meet pa rin ng Bohol ang mga conditions para maging insurgency free, for example iilan lang na mga barangay ang may report na NPA, and the numbers of armed group roaming around is very low,” he said.
Madriaga also admitted that it is possible for the NPA to maintain efforts to reestablish presence in the province.
“Bohol will always be threatened, they will always try to regain their influence here so nag-attempt sila na i-contact mga dati nilang kasama,” he said.
The army official noted that the police and military have been receiving various tips on alleged sighting of armed personalities across the province, particularly in the interior area, but clarified that these reports are still under verification.
Both the Bohol Provincial Police Office and the Capitol have also maintained that the entire province is still insurgency-free. (A. Doydora)