THE New People’s Army (NPA) yesterday claimed to have killed two soldiers and wounded seven others in a bomb attack on Labor Day in Lantapan, Bukidnon. In a statement sent to The Gold Star Daily, Mamerto Bagani, a NPA spokesperson in central Mindanao, said the attack was carried out by members of the rebel group’s Rexan Perez Command against soldiers from the army’s 8th Infantry Battalion. Bagani said the rebels exploded a bomb at a military vehicle and then sprayed the soldiers with automatic gunfire in Purok 7, Barangay Songco in Lantapan town. Camp Evangelista spokesperson Maj. Eugenio Osias IV and Lt. Col. Jose Maria Cuerpo, 8th IB commander, denied the NPA claim. They said only one militiaman was wounded.
The soldiers were reportedly sent to the town to organize a group for “peace and development.” Bagani said rebels staged the attack because soldiers were allgedly violating the rights of villagers in Bukidnon. “They have been occupying for more than a month now the barangay halls of Alanib and Songco in Lantapan; and Imbayao, Kapitan Angel and Dalwangan in Malaybalay. They terrorized many peasants. They used a barangay kagawad to summon the barriofolk one by one for interrogation. They were coerced to admit of supporting the NPA. They also encourage disco dances, drinking and the showing of pornographic films in the barangay hall,” Bagani said.
He also accused the military of indiscriminate aerial bombings in Dalwangan, Malaybalay and Kibenton, Impasugong, four hours after soldiers and the NPA clashed last April 21. “They couldn’t care less about protecting the environment even when the area being bombed is a protected area inhabited by eagles,” said Bagani. He said the soldiers were sent to the villages not really to organize for “peace and development” but “to pave the way for more Landgrabbing by foreign agri-business corporations.” Bagani said the soldiers were sent to serve the interests of Land grabbers “in the name of super-profits” at the expense of the environment, peasants, workers, Lumad in Bukidnon. Bagani said, “The military presence is to ensure that any dissent from the locals is silenced.