MAWAB, COMPOSTELA VALLEY PROVINCE – To avoid being forced by the NPA to join the communist movement, 237 families evacuated their homes in Brgy Camutan, Antipas, North Cotabato in the early morning of Thursday, March 23.
Antipas Mayor Egidio Cadungon convened the Local Crisis Management Committee to facilitate the immediate care of the 237 families who temporarily stayed in Antipas Municipal Gym in Brgy Poblacion. Reports from Cotabato Police Provincial Office (CPPO) revealed that around 30 families who were earlier held hostage by the NPA in Sitio Embangan have managed to leave the said area in the afternoon of the same day.
“As of 4:00 p.m., Sitios Patot, Datu Agod and Embangan of the said barangay are totally vacated by the residents,” the report added.
The report further stated that the arrival of the NPA in Brgy Camutan caused fear and panic among the residents, forcing them to flee to Poblacion Antipas. Additionally, per report from Antipas MDRRMO, the elementary schools in Barangays Canaan, Embangan and Camutan have also suspended their classes until Friday, March 24 to ensure the safety of the children.
A joint Army-PNP team composed of troops of 39IB and the Cotabato Police Public Safety Company (CPPSC) immediately responded to the reported NPA presence and engaged the NPA belonging to Guerrilla Front 53 in a 10-minute firefight at Sitio Malapange of the said barangay around 7:20 in the evening. No soldier or police were hurt in the said encounter.
As of Friday morning, the local government of Antipas, 39IB, and CPPO through the Crisis Management Committee are closely working together to facilitate the safe return of the evacuees to their communities.
Major General Rafael Valencia, 10ID commander condemned the NPA rebels for spreading fear and panic among the peaceful people of Antipas, North Cotabato.
“This incident clearly shows the anti-people character of the nuisance propaganda army (NPA) of the communists, he added. “It is now high time that the people voice their desire for peace and call on the communists to abandon their armed struggle, which for the last 50 years have only brought miseries to the Filipino people,” MGen Valencia concluded.