SANTA LUCIA, ILOCOS SUR, September 17, 2003 (STAR) By Teddy Molina And Myds Supnad  - About 50 communist guerrillas killed two policemen, stole firearms and burned down the police station of this town during a 30-minute siege the other day, authorities said.

In a separate attack, rebels torched a passenger bus in Pantukan, Compostela Valley on the same day.

Lt. Col. Preme Monta, spokesman of the Armed Forces’ Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom), said the rebels, who arrived on board a jeep and an Elf truck, set fire to the police outpost and a police vehicle before fleeing with five firearms from the police armory, they added.

Monta said the rebel attackers belong to the NPA’s Kilusang Larangang Gerilya-De Lara.

Santa Lucia Mayor Ferdinand Hernaes identified the slain policemen as SPO3 Simeon Aquino and SPO2 Ricardo Isidro, and those wounded as PO2 Rodrigo Masanda, SPO2 Felipe Deles, SPO2 Andrew Rabang, SPO4 Alfredo Barbado and SPO4 Danilo Bilawen.

Hernaes condemned the incident and asked the townsfolk in a radio interview "to close ranks with local officials in fighting these terrorists."

Hernaes’ father, former mayor Teodoro Hernaes, was himself killed by NPA hit men during the poll campaign in 2001.

Chief Superintendent Claudio Cabreros, Region 1 police director, said the NPA raid was an "isolated case" and did not mean a "security breakdown" in this town or in the entire region.

Senior Superintendent Mario Subagan, provincial police director, said he has ordered the relief of this town’s police chief, Crescenciano Villanueva, pending an investigation into the incident.

Reports said the rebels arrived at the police station at about 11:30 p.m. and were looking for Isidro. After recognizing him from among those manning the detachment, they immediately shot him.

Probers said the rebels shot Aquino as they approached the police station. Aquino was the duty guard, while his colleagues were watching television and resting.

Cabreros said they are investigating why the guerrillas were looking for Isidro.

He said the rebels later poured gasoline on the outpost and a police jeep and then set them on fire.

The wounded policemen were shot in the feet to prevent them from chasing the fleeing guerrillas. Police found 360 empty shells of M-16 Armalite rifles at the scene.

Lt. Gen. Romeo Dominguez, Nolcom commander, has directed elements of the Army’s 50th Infantry Battalion and the 503rd Infantry Brigade to go after the raiders.

At about the same time in the south, NPA rebels robbed passengers of a Bachelor bus and then set the vehicle on fire in Barangay Bongbong in Pantukan, Compostela Valley.

The guerrillas flagged down the bus, divested dozens of passengers of cash and other belongings before torching the vehicle which plied the Davao-Mati route, said Lt. Col. Daniel Lucero, Armed Forces information officer.

The NPA was apparently trying to extort money from the bus owners, the military said.

Last Sunday, seven suspected communist insurgents raided a farm in San Ildefonso, Bulacan and burned down several heavy equipment worth more than P10 million.

Senior Superintendent Felizardo Serapio, Bulacan police director, said the armed men entered the farm compound of Tony Pancho in Barangay Upig, tied up caretaker Romelito Reyes and ransacked the place of three base radios and three portable handheld radios.

Before fleeing, the guerrillas torched a bulldozer, a water tank truck, a payloader, a farm tractor and a power sprayer.

The NPA is the 9,000-member armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, waging a 34-year Maoist rebellion that has claimed thousands of lives in impoverished rural areas.

On the same day that Santa Lucia town was attacked, an aide to President Arroyo announced that the government would hold "exploratory talks" with Netherlands-based communist guerrilla leaders later this month in Norway.

Mrs. Arroyo suspended talks with the communists after the NPA assassinated two legislators in 2001. — With Benjie Villa, James Mananghaya, Artemio Dumlao, Roel Pareño, Ric Sapnu, Mike Frialde and wire reports

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved