LUCENA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Suspected members of the Communist New People’s Army (NPA) allegedly burned down a public high school building in Catanauan town in Quezon province early Saturday morning, police said.
Chief Inspector Dwight Alegre, Catanauan police chief, said armed men stormed the Doongan Ilaya National High School in Barangay Doongan Ilaya and burned down at least 8 rooms of the said school at around 1:00 a.m.
Alegre said they were only informed of the incident when barangay captain Emiliano Bibal, together with the school teachers, reported the incident to the police station at around 7:00 a.m.
“Hindi nakarating kaagad sa amin ang info kasi walang telepono sa Barangay Doongan Ilaya na may 16 na kilometro ang layo dito sa bayan,” Alegre said.
Upon investigation, the rebels even hoisted an inverted Philippine flag at the school’s flagpole before escaping.
Police said no one was hurt in the incident.
Malacañang ordered on Wednesday a unilateral suspension of offensive military operation (SOMO) against the NPAs during the Christmas season.
The SOMO took effect at 12:01 on Thursday (December 24) and ended at noon on December 26. The truce will start again at 12:01 am on December 31 and will end on January 1, 2010.
Palace officials said the unilateral truce was “a gesture of goodwill and desire for peace and tranquility during the celebration and observance of Christmas and New Year."
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had directed the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police to remain on alert despite the declaration of SOMO, in light of the founding anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) on December 26, which may prompt attacks.
“That’s a pure violation of the true essence of the SOMO. It’s an act against not only to the government but against the people,” Chief Superintendent Perfecto Palad, Region 4-A Police Director told ABS-CBN.
“ Ano ba yong sinira nila? Di ba mga gamit ng mga batang estudyante yon? It's purely vandalism and robbery without any idealism,” Palad added.
A few days ago, at least 80 armed NPA rebels stormed the San Narciso police station and carted away at least 13 firearms and P30,000 cash.
The AFP traditionally takes the initiative to propose a SOMO against Communist rebels during the holiday season, and the NPAs usually respond with their own unilateral ceasefire declaration, taking the opportunity to allow the rebels to be with their families during the holidays.