Barely 24 hours after the province of Bohol was cleared of the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group (ASG), law enforcement authorities are now shifting their attention to Negros Oriental.
This after a group of nearly two dozen armed men and a woman were sighted in Guihulngan City of the province yesterday morning.
In an interview with Cebu Daily News, Guihulngan police chief Supt. Arnel Arpon said that around 5:30 a.m. of Wednesday, a former member of Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit (Cafgu) called their station saying that armed men riding two pump boats arrived in Barangay Basak of the city.
“More or less 20 sila may kasamang isang babaye. Tapos may mga dalang baril,” Arpon said, quoting the report from the former paramilitary man.
(More or less they were 20 armed persons, including a woman. They had firearms with them.)
Arpon said he immediately led a police team to the area, but they were not able to catch up with the armed group.
He said that he and Guihulngan Mayor Guido Reyes were instead able to talk to the informant.
“Pagdating ng mga armed men, nagtanong daw sa kaya saan yung safe na daan papuntang bundok,” Arpon said.
(They asked directions from the informant as to the safe path to the mountain area.)
After he gave the directions, the informant said that the armed men immediately headed to the mountainous part of Basak.
Guihulngan City is located on the northern part of Negros Oriental, or about 130 kilometers north of Dumaguete City.
Arpon said that around 10 a.m., they received reports that there were also armed men sighted in the hinterland village of Balogo of the same city.
But they still have to verify the reports, he added.
Arpon said that right after they received the report, he called the Armed Forces of the Philippines unit assigned in the province, the 79th Infantry Battalion.
However, he added that until past 10 a.m. yesterday, the military has not sent troops to check the area.
“Hindi dumating yung tropa nila. Rason daw nila wala silang quick reaction team. Konti lang tropa nila sa Guihulngan City. Yung naiwan lang yung pang-ano sa kampo and intel team nila,” Arpon said.
(Their troops did not come. They reasoned out that they do not have a quick reaction team. They only have the intelligence team in the camp and enough personnel left to guard the camp.)
Believed to be NPA
As of this writing, Arpon admitted that they could still not confirm as to the identity of the armed men.
He said they were still verifying if the armed persons belong to the dreaded Abu Sayyaf Group or New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas.
But based on the statement of the former Cafgu member, Arpon said there is a big possibility that those armed men are with the NPA.
“Kasi pumunta ng bundok. May posibilidad na mag-regroup sila dito. Hindi kasi sila dito nangaling sa Negros. Kasi dumating sila sa isla na naka-pump boat,” Arpon said.
(Because they went up to the mountains. There is a possibility that they are regrouping here in Negros. Since they arrived on the island using a pump boat, it means they came from another province.)
A source from Military Intelligence Group (MIG) said that those armed men could be members of the South East Front sa Komiteng Rehiyon-Negros (SEF-KRN).
The source said that those armed men mostly likely came from Bohol, which remained tightly guarded against the presence of armed men in the aftermath of the entry of the Abu Sayyaf bandits on the island.
According to the MIG source, it was likely that the NPA rebels were laying off Bohol for the time being and might be regrouping in Negros.
The source said that sometime last week, military troops had an encounter with the leftist elements in Santa Catalina town in Negros Oriental.
In Bohol, military troops are still in many areas in the province even as they have slowly withdrawn from Pangangan Island in Calape town, where the last two ASG members were killed.with reports from Nestle L. Semilla