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30 NPA rebels torch rubber plant

MAKILALA, Cotabato – About 30 New Peoples’ Army (NPA) rebels torched a rubber processing plant in a village and then exploded a bomb, killing an employee and wounded another around 8 p.m., Sunday.

Lt. Nasrullah Sema, chief civil military operations of the 57th Infantry Battalion, said the rebels were onboard two Isuzu trucks when they raided the Standard Rubber Development Corporation (Standeco) and torched its rubber processing plant, including its warehouse and office, located in Barangay Talun-talunan here.

A few hours later, a roadside bomb, which the rebels had planted, went off and killed Hector Lalaguna and wounded Francisco Andap, both employees of the Standeco.

The victims were aboard a Standeco pickup truck on their way to the site for inspection when the bomb exploded.

Lalaguna, who was seated at the back, died on the spot while the driver, Andap, was seriously wounded.

Sema said the rebels could have mistaken Standeco’s vehicle for that of the military’s responding to the attack.

“When they saw a vehicle was approaching, they immediately blew off the landmine,” said Sema.

The military official believed extortion was the motive behind the arson.

He also considered the controversies behind the decline in the rubber prices as one of the motives.

The rebels have earlier issued a statement accusing a number of businessmen and companies as behind the cartel or monopoly in the rubber industry in North Cotabato.

Sema condemned the arson, saying the attack was a handiwork of a “group of bandits.”

Police and military authorities have conducted pursuit operations against the attackers believed to be members of the NPA Front 72 led by a certain Felix Armodia who is also known as Commander Jing. (Malu Cadelina Manar)