By Yas Ocampo
DAVAO CITY – The 10th Infantry Division (10th ID) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) denied the allegations made by the New People’s Army (NPA) that it was responsible for the massive evacuation of lumads and peasants in its area of operation in Tarragona, Davao Oriental.
The military, instead, accused the NPA of protecting a nearby marijuana plantation.
In an interview with The Manila Bulletin, 10th ID spokesperson Capt. Jerry Lamosao said that the attack on a police vehicle that had three policemen last July 26 was deliberate.
“There was a law enforcement operation in the area,” Lamosao said, adding that the AFP and Philippine National Police (PNP) coordinated a visit to the site that was allegedly protected by the NPA.
Authorities had already found out about the plantation three days earlier, Lamosao said.
According to Lamosao, combined elements of police, military, and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) uprooted and burned P2.04 million worth of 12,000 hills of marijuana in a one-hectare property at Sitio Nagas, Brgy Tomaong, Tarragona, Davao Oriental last July 23.
Residents reported the marijuana plantation to authorities, who responded in force.
“Based on revelation of some of the residents, it’s high time that the plantation was exposed so that NPA would also be held accountable since they are the ones protecting it,” Lamosao said.
Three days later, rebels fired upon the Tagsagaong Bridge being blocked by government forces in Tomoaong, as three police officers were trying to cross on board a black Toyota Avanza, around 4:30 p.m.
On board the vehicle were PO1 Johnny Morales, PCI Marcialito Batingana, and PO1 George Silat.
The incident wounded Morales, while Silat and Batingana returned fire and rescued Morales, leaving the vehicle behind.
In a statement sent to Manila Bulletin August 3, the NPA Comval Davao East Coast Subregional Operations Command Southern Mindanao accused the military of forcing families from the countryside to either flee their homes or “surrendering” as NPA sympathizers.