MAGPET, North Cotabato: The military here Friday blamed communist guerrillas in the burning of a heavy equipment of a construction firm in a remote village here Thursday night.
First Lieutenant Nasrullah Sema, commander of the Charlie Company of the 57th Infantry Battalion based here, said the burning of a pay loader owned by Jargon Construction Company was obviously the handiwork of the New Peoples Army (NPA).
“They have been doing it to companies that do not agree to their extortion activities,” Sema said in a phone interview.
Chairperson Joseph Romero of Barangay Binay said about 30 armed men set on fire a pay loader owned by Jargon construction company at about 10 p.m.
Police said the Php3 million worth brand new pay loader was parked along a road in Barangay Binay when the suspects poured gasoline and set it on fire.
Romero said he has not heard the construction firm is getting extortion demand from any armed group or lawless elements.
Magpet is one of the NPA infiltrated communities in North Cotabato.
Several equipment of construction companies and multi-national firm had been torched by suspected NPAs in the past, including equipment owned by banana firms.
Sema said the NPAs had been making noise lately since the military deployed troops in 11 villages of Magpet for its peace and development outreach program.
“They are opposed to our presence because their nefarious activities had been stopped,” Sema said.
In fact, he said, soldiers stationed in nearby Barangay Balete were harassed with improvised bombs by suspected NPAs. Nobody was hurt in the IED attack but it sent fear among residents.
“No other group has the capacity to harass government soldiers but the NPAs,” Sema said.
Earlier this week, the NPA also sniped at a platoon of soldiers conducting foot patrol in the village of Batac, also in Magpet.
Colonel Nilo Viluan, 57th Infantry Battalion commander whose area covers Magpet, Kidapawan City and Makilala, also appealed to the villagers not to fear the military.
“Fear the NPA rebels because they are harassing you, extorting you and harming your livelihood,” he told the residents.
“Your Army is not mulcting from you but protecting you from the claws of NPA rebels,” he added. PNA