It was supposed to be a surprise attack on a police station. The plan was to take the police officers unawares by hitting them a couple of hours before dawn. This was the time when someone manning a post through the night is usually least alert and most likely very sleepy. And those attacking outnumbered their target by at least three to one. It was a textbook plan.
Unfortunately for the members of the New People’s Army (NPA) who staged such an attack recently, the police personnel in that particular station turned the tables on their attackers. This time, reality didn’t conform to what the textbook said.
According to a report from Camp Kangleon in Palo, Leyte, the Victoria Municipal Police Station led by Officer-in-Charge Police Lieutenant Eladio G. Alo of the Norther Samar Police Provincial Office successfully defended their station from an attack staged by an estimated 50 members of the NPA.
In a statement released by Police Lt. Col. Ma. Bella D. Rentuaya, the Regional Public Information Officer of Police Regional Office 8, the NPA band attacked the police station at 3:44 am last March 28.
“The 15 PNP personnel on duty defended the station from the rooftop and put up a firefight which lasted until 6:40 am of the same date,” the PRO8 official said.
It turned out that the roof deck was designed to be used as an elevated fortified strongpoint in case of an attack. This design has been a standard part of most of the two-storey police stations in the Eastern Visayas region. Of the 146 police stations in the Eastern Visayas, 102 already had such a building.
The PRO8 report said two police personnel were wounded when shrapnel hit their faces. The wounded were identified as Police Senior Master Sergeant Arturo Gordo Jr., who suffered minor nose and eye injury, and Police Master Sergeant Arnold Cabacang, who suffered a minor face injury. They were brought to the nearest hospital for medical treatment.
According to reports, the heavily armed NPA members arrived in the town of Victoria on board two trucks. Several of these NPA members were dressed in military fatigues and all of them wore yellow strips of cloth as a headband, which served as their countersign to identity each other. The reports added that “several of them were noted to be women.”
Word of the NPA attack on Victoria swiftly reached higher police headquarters. By 4:00 am, Police Brigadier General Dionardo Carlos, the head of PRO8, sent Police Col. Rolando Miranda and the PRO8 regional security task group to reinforce the personnel of the Victoria police station.
Carlos told the Philippines Graphic that it was the presence of mind of the young police lieutenant serving as the acting municipal police chief that was “one of the critical factors” leading to the defeat of the NPA attack.
“The new PNP station building design also contributed,” he added.
Even before the NPA attack, he had already issued instructions that PRO8 police stations must be manned by 14 to 15 personnel, “all in combat-ready mode, carrying all available rifles and pistols and wearing camouflage uniforms.”
He credited these instructions as putting the Victoria cops in a better position to deal with the NPA attack.
“We’ve been giving them regular intelligence briefings about the plans and movements of the NPA on the island,” he explained. “That’s why our police personnel in Samar were ready.”
He said the young police officer immediately informed the Provincial Tactical Operations Center and his Provincial Director of the ongoing attack at 3:44 am.
Ten minutes later, Carlos, as regional director, was already fully informed of what was happening. This enabled him to issue orders to Miranda and his unit to “reinforce the Victoria cops from the south” while the Regional Mobile Force Battalion and its commander had been directed to reinforce from the north, which was the town of Lavanzares. The NPA unit that surrounded the police station was to be hit from two directions.
At the same time, Carlos told the Graphic that nearby Philippine Army units were also alerted.
By 4:00 a.m., the battle staff of PRO8 was already coordinating with the Victoria municipal police chief.
“The regional intelligence officer (Police Lt. Col. Rodolfo Castro Jr.) was passing information to the Victoria cops of what was happening outside his station, while the regional operations officer (Police Col. Rolando Miranda) was in contact with the Victoria chief of police giving instructions,” the PRO8 director said. “The battle staff was working from 4:00 am to 7:00 am helping the Victoria cops under attack.”
“Other staff officers were present, including the Regional Chief of the Directorial Staff (Police Col. Arthur Cabalona), the R1 personnel chief (Police Col. Andre Dizon), the R4 logistics chief (Police Lt. Col. Arnel Apud) and R6 comptroller (Police Col. Bowenn Masauding),” he added.
The NPA had put up roadblocks leading to Victoria, which the reinforcing police units were able to brush aside. Unfortunately, one of these NPA-manned roadblocks shot at and wounded four civilians. The civilians were riding a black Toyota Vios headed to San Isidro from San Jose when they were hit at Barangay Libertad in Victoria.
Fortunately, the driver of the vehicle was not hit and he managed to evade the roadblock. The driver of a passing van volunteered to help bring the wounded the Allen District Hospital. The wounded civiians were later transferred to the Northern Samar Provincial Hospital for further treatment.
During the firefight at the police station, three of the NPA members were killed. One of them was shot dead in front of the station and the other two died at the rear of the station.
One suspected member of the NPA band who attacked the station was captured. He was identified as Aljon Tamuyang Cardenas, 18 years old and said to be a resident of Barangay Dawo, Calabayog City, Samar. At the time of this writing, he was under the custody of the Victoria Municipal Police Station for proper disposition.
Police recovered one Mk2 grenade, one rifle grenade pin, three 40 mm grenades, one improvised explosive device, a sack containing food packs, and other weapons from the slain NPA members.
The PRO8 Regional Director lauded the personnel of the Victoria municipal police station for repulsing the NPA attack.
“Let this bravery mark the kind of police personnel we have in Easter Visayas,” he said.
The PRO8 Regional Director also urged local officials in the Eastern Visayas to use the new standard design for their police station.
“It really served its purpose,” he said. “I call on the remaining 22 Local government units to donate lots as their share in the construction of these buildings.” G