IN CATARMAN, NORTHERN SAMAR Bayan Muna provincial office fired upon by unidentified suspects
TACLOBAN CITY- The provincial office of the militant group, Bayan Muna, in Catarman Northern Samar was fired upon Wednesday night, which the group attributed to the military operating in the province.
The attack on the provincial office of the Bayan Muna in Catarman occurred after the arrest of a former leader of the Samahan han Gugti na Parag-uma ha Sinirangan Bisayas (Sagupa-SB) last July 6 here in Tacloban for murder and frustrated murder.
Andrew Sudario, provincial chairman of Bayan Muna for Northern Samar, said that their office located in Barangay Kawayan, Catarman, was fired upon by the suspects, who were on board a motorcycle at 10:25 p.m. last Wednesday.
Sudario said that he and four others were inside their office when the incident took place. No one was hurt in the incident.
“The jalousies of the office was destroyed due to the bullet coming from what I believed a caliber 45. We scampered for safety as we put off the lights inside the office,” Sudario, reached on his phone, said.
According to Sudario, last Wednesday’s incident was not the first time to happen as similar incident also took place in 2004 and 2005.
Minutes before the incident happened, Sudario heard a motorcycle stopped in front of their office and what happened next was a burst of fire that hit the window of their single-storey office.
While he was not able to see the perpetrators who made a fast escape after the incident, Sudario said that they have no other suspects but the military.
“I can really say that it’s the military. They continue to harass and threaten groups like Bayan Muna as part of their red labeling campaign. They say that they are on a peace mission and yet they continue their militarization campaign in barangays across Northern Samar,” Sudario said.
But this claim of Sudario was dismissed by Lt. Colonel Noel Vestuir, commanding officer of the 20th Infantry Battalion based in Lope de Vega town, also in Northern Samar.
Vestuir, in a text message, said that the military is not into business of harassing or intimidating civilians or groups.
“That is not part of the military’s role. Our main role is to address the presence of the armed group, the New People’s Army, who are the ones terrorizing the civilians. Their claim is nothing but to destroy the reputation of the military and without any basis,” Vestuir said.
He also denied the claim of Sudario that they military is into red labeling of militant or progressive groups like Bayan Muna or Sagupa.
“There is no such thing as red labeling. They have their representatives in Congress on account that the government recognizes their groups despite of the fact of their relentless criticisms against the government,” Vestuir said.
Meantime, the arrest and detention of Francisco Baylon, former deputy secretary general of Sagupa, was also blamed by the group on the continued alleged hunting of the military on groups labeled by the former as “fronts” of the communist group.
“He was arrested on mere trump up charges. He was arrested and detained just because he was once part of a progressive group like the Sagupa,” Nestor Lebico, secretary general of the Sagupa, said.
The 41- year- old Baylon was arrested last July 16 inside his house in Barangay 89, San Jose, Tacloban by a combined elements of the police and Philippine Army, both based in Catarman, Northern Samar.
He was arrested by virtue of a warrant of arrest issued by Judge Decoroso Turlao, presiding judge of the Regional Trial Court-Branch 21 based in Laoang, also in Northern Samar. He served as the group’s leader from 2003 until 2008.
By Joey A. Gabieta
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