KITCHARAO, Agusan del Norte – On Saturday, July 17, 2021, the Bike for Peace and Justice for Keith Absalon was held in Kitcharao, Agusan Del Norte. This activity coincided with the commemoration of the 40th day of the Absalon cousins’ death, who were killed when a landmine exploded while they were biking in Brgy. Anas, Masbate City. The event also condemned human rights abuses of Communist NPA Terrorists (CNTs) and called for justice for all the victims, as well as just and lasting peace.
The 29th Infantry “Matatag Fighters” Battalion (29IB) was called on to assist in the event as a security patrol. Before the activity, the unit received several reports from concerned civilians regarding the presence of armed men in the vicinity of Brgy. Mahayhay, which happened to be part of the route for the biking event. Based on the initial assessment, the armed men planned to sabotage the event to prevent residents from participating. This was immediately acted upon by the unit that planned out the deployment of the troops.
True enough, when residents and government officials were preparing for the event. Around 5:42 in the morning, while troops of 29IB were on security patrols, encountered more or less seven (7) CNTs believed to be members of Sandatahang Yunit Pampropaganda (SYP)16A, Guerilla Front (GF)16 of North Eastern Mindanao Regional Committee (NEMRC) under Samuel Batican alias @Popo at Purok 6 of said barangay. The firefight lasted for about twenty-five (25) minutes before the enemies fled southward direction, leaving some of their personal belongings. The troops immediately pursued and a gun battle ensued which lasted for about ten (10) minutes. The CNT members then withdrew southwest after realizing they are at a disadvantage.
Then at around 7:18 in the morning, another element of security patrol encountered an undetermined number of armed men, believed to be the same terrorist group, in which intermittent exchange of fires occurred which lasted for thirty (30) minutes. And as a result, the fleeing enemies withdrew towards the nearby residential area, and intentionally fired upon some houses of the civilians which have caused residents to panic and sought refuge at the barangay center. Fortunately, there were no reported injuries or casualties from civilians. Mahayhay barangay officials immediately proceeded to the houses of their constituents to ensure that no NPAs were hiding in the residences.
Hon. Mario Magsanay, Punong Barangay of Mahayahay said, “Hinaot pa unta nga inyo kaming matabangan, ug matabangan sad ninyo ang inyong kaugalingon aron walay mga panghitabo nga sama niini. Palihog lang dili ta magduha-duha sa pagtabang sa mga Army ug pulis aron ma-maintain atong kalinaw diri sa atong barangay ug aduna man gani mga kaigsoonan nato nga samaran ihatag diri aron kini matambalan ug matabangan. Ang atong gobyerno naga-awhag sa tanan lumulopyo sa Brgy. Mahayahay ug duna man kaigsoonan nato nga naa sa pikas masamdan man o dili kinahanglan nga itugyan kini sa atong gobyerno aron sila matabangan.”(We hope that you would help us and yourselves so there wouldn’t be an incident like this anymore. Please do not hesitate in helping Army and Police so that we can maintain peace here in our barangay. If there are some of our wounded brothers, please turn them over so that we can aid them. Our government is urging us, residents of Brgy. Mahayahay, to turn over our brothers or sisters, wounded or not so that we could help them.)
According to Lt Col Aristotle Antonio, Commanding Officer of 29IB, “The CNTs have continuously tried to make atrocities in many areas nationwide and inflict fear to many. Their terroristic acts only proves their real evil intentions, to “terrorize”. We believe that we can prevent and stop enemies’ wicked intentions and actions if we just continue to work together. This peace and security concern is not just ours alone, we are in this together. And we can help our fellowmen who have lost their way, to find it back again, only if we don’t tolerate them.”
“Likewise, we extend our gratitude to the concerned civilians who have trusted us enough to report information about the enemies. The simple information you gave us means a lot, not only for our benefit but for the improvement of the peace situation in the area,” Antonio added.
Despite the incident, the Bike for Peace and Justice Drive proceeded successfully as planned. This is to show that the CNT’s plans were already foiled and that the peace-loving people of Kitcharao, as well as the rest of Agusan del Norte, can unite in ending the local communist armed conflict through peaceful means such as the activity.