MANILA- The mayor of Antipas in North Cotabato on Friday belied reports of hostage-taking and looting in their town amid threats from New People's Army (NPA) rebels.
Speaking to ANC, Mayor Egidio Cadungon confirmed that armed rebels were present in the area but denied that locals are being held hostage by the group.
"Walang looting na nangyari at walang na-hostage dito," he said.
(There is no looting incident and nobody was held hostage here.)
Cadungon said an encounter ensued between military forces and armed rebels on Thursday night but no firefight has followed since then.
A total of 237 families voluntarily evacuated out of fear of the rebels, Cadungon said.
“Yung takot ng tao eh dahil sa order ng Pangulo na pag meron armado, i-cross out ng mga sundalo. Sa takot nila they voluntarily evacuated their place,” Cadungon said.
(The people are scared because of the President's order to cross out armed rebels. Out of fear, the voluntarily evacuated their place.)
Cadungon said he was able to talk to one of the communist leaders who said they were only protecting locals.
“Andyan daw sila ma’am para proteksyunan yung mga tao eh peaceful naman itong lugar namin eh at saka wala naman gulo so ang mga tao nag-react na. Ayaw ng mga tao sa kanila,” he said.
(They said they were here to protect the people but our town is peaceful and there are no troubles so the people reacted. The people don't like them.)
Evacuees are currently staying at an evacuation center near the municipal hall.
Soldiers and police are also making rounds in the town to secure residents as the local government assesses the situation, Cadungon said.