MANILA, Philippines – “Get them!” This was the order issued on Thursday by Armed Forces chief of staff Gen. Eduardo Oban Jr. to Lt. Gen. Arthur Tabaquero, commander of Eastern Mindanao Command, against New People’s Army (NPA) rebels who raided simultaneously three mining firms in Claver, Surigao del Norte last Monday.
“Military operation is ongoing in the area,” Oban told the Philippines News Agency in an interview in Camp Aguinaldo.
At the same time, Oban ordered the relief of Col. Rodrigo Diapana, commander of the 402nd Brigade of the Philippine Army, whose area of responsibility covers Surigao del Norte.
Col. James Jacob, chief of staff of the 4th ID, was designated as acting commander of the Army’s 402nd Brigade, replacing Diapana.
Also relieved was Col. Cresent Q. Maligmat, deputy of the 402nd Brigade and concurrent Task Force Stinger commander.
Diapana and Jacob were relieved for their failure to take security measures that could have prevented the broad daylight attacks.
About 300 heavily armed NPA rebels simultaneously attacked the Taganito Mining Co., Nickel Asia Corp., and the Platinum Metal Corp. and burned heavy equipment worth P3 billion.
Destroyed by the rebels were 132 dump trucks, nine barges, 22 back hoes, two cranes, two bulldozers, two compactors, one grader, several buildings and office equipment.
The rebels also held several mining officials and employees but were released them after a few hours.
The raids were the biggest scored by the NPA this year whose strength has been cut down to 4,000, according to the military.
In his order, Oban specifically directed Tabaquero to produce results to get the NPA rebels who raided the three mining firms.
“Definitely, we see serious lapses on the ground that’s why I have directed the relief of the brigade commander, including the deputy brigade commander, who happens to be the task group commander in the area,” Oban said.
He also ordered an investigation of the series of incidents to know exactly why the rebels were able to conduct the raids with impunity.
Failure of intelligence is being looked into.
The raids took place a few days after the 30th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army was pulled out from Surigao del Norte for retraining.
Apparently, the NPA took advantage of the security vacuum created with the pull out of the Army battalion.
The attacks occurred just three weeks before the scheduled peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front (NDF) in Oslo, Norway this month. (Ben Cal/PNA)