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Hounded by killings, rebel attacks, town in Sorsogon calls for localized peace talk

By Juan Escandor Jr. GUBAT, Sorsogon---Hounded by killings and rebel attacks from June to November this year, the local officials of Gubat town in Sorsogon province have asked public support for a localized peace talk between the New People’s Army rebels and the government. Gubat Mayor Sharon Glipo Escoto, in a joint statement with the vice mayor, a copy of which was provided the Bicol Mail after a press conference held last Nov. 13 at the Sangguniang Hall, called for “for a localized peace talk and ceasefire to bring back the peace in our town, and to minimize the collateral damage brought about by these armed conflicts.” Escoto expressed alarm over the rising victims of summary executions of civilians implicated in the underground rebel groups and the death of a policeman in a daring raid by the NPA rebels late last October. She said peace in her town could only be achieved with the support of the public, the parties in conflict, the national government and agencies and local institutions like the church and other concerned groups. Gubat Vice Mayor Sixto Estareja cited the unresolved killings of Pedro Esperida, a council member in Brgy. Bentuco, Alfredo Espedido in Naagtan, and Jason Españo, Allan Nolasco, Edwin Pura, and Wilfredo Broño as well the case of PO2 Dennis Garbida and the recent attack of the Gubat Municipal Police Station. Estareja said the killings of civilian and the death of the policeman happened in the span of five months, from June to November. For several minutes, the New People’s Army (NPA) rebels had taken control of the town of Gubat in Sorsogon province when they attacked the police station here on Nov. 3 at night time. Gubat, a second-class town with population of more than 60,000, lies at the eastern seaboard of Sorsogon province facing the province of Samar across the Pacific Ocean and San Bernardino Strait. Positioned 50 meters away from the police station, located inside the municipal government compound in Barangay Pinontingan, the NPA rebels started the attack with burst of automatic gunfire at about 9:26 p.m. Senior Inspector Nicolas L. Malipot Jr., chief of police, said the NPA rebels, clad in green camouflage uniforms and using M16 and M14 rifles, hit the back and side portions of the police station. Malipot said no one was hurt and the NPA rebels boarded motorcycles to flee while the police forces conducted hot pursuit operation. However, contrary to Malipot statement, witnesses along the route where the NPA rebels passed by said the police did not give chase to the fleeing NPA rebels. The interview with several witnesses, who requested not be named for security reasons, revealed that had the police conducted hot pursuit operation many of them would have been ambushed by the NPA rebels who had positioned themselves on the side of the road. An engineer at the bunkhouse of workers in Barangay Panganiban, where steel bars for road construction are shaped and stocked, said that before the NPA rebels raided the police station, the rebels took over the place and asked the workers to secure themselves. He said even tricycles were flagged down and were not allowed to move because in case the police forces chase their decoys, the civilians will be in the line of fire. The NPA rebels also fired their guns in Barangay San Ignacio at the northern part of the town going to Sorsogon City. On Oct. 15, the police outpost at the business center of Gubat town was also raided by a group of NPA rebels aboard a van and motorcycle. A policeman, identified as Garbida, was killed in that attack. On Oct. 25, Edwin Pura, 40, a member of the militant group Bayan and paralegal worker, was shot dead by two unidentified gunmen inside a resto bar in this town. The waitress of the resto bar was also killed by the two gunmen.

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