Despite the firing of 40mm high explosive projectiles at their residential compound, Mayor Lourdes Escalante yesterday said she is not inclined to recommend that Manapla be included in the poll watch list areas of Negros Occidental, or placed under Comelec control.
Her husband and former Manapla mayor, Manuel Escalante, dismissed as ridiculous, totally outrageous and absurd, claims that the incident was a “drama” to gain a political mileage.
“Why make a drama? Our lives are at stake here,” Mayor Escalante, who was at the residence with her daughter and son, when the explosions took place, also said.
While nobody was hurt during the successive explosions, Mayor Escalante and their workers, whose houses, were several meters away from the two craters, created by the explosions, admitted that they were traumatized by the incident.
Inspector Julius Ceasar Colado, Manapla police officer-in-charge, yesterday said they recovered an empty shell of a 40mm grenade from the national highway of Hacienda Lourdes, Brgy. Punta Mesa, Manapla, which is about 380 meters away from the residential compound of Escalante.
This indicates that the suspect may have fired the M-203 grenade launcher from the highway, Colado said.
While she is not saying that it was politically-motivated, Mayor Escalante has this to say to the perpetrators” Whatever your intention, let’s just campaign, just present your platform of government… you should not terrorize or harass the people”.
The first crater was discovered about 60 meters away from the residence of the mayor, and the second about 10 meters from the house of hacienda worker Edgar Agotero, investigations by the Manapla police showed.
Stressing that there is no need to place Manapla under Comelec control, Mayor Escalante said they and the police are on top of the situation. She, however, expressed concern over the security of her family and Manapla residents.
She confirmed having asked for security from the PNP to protect themselves from possible threat on their lives, but have not received any all these years, she said.
While the peace and order situation is back to normal after the incident, she said they cannot afford to be complacent. Hopefully, this will not happen again, Escalante added.
Hacienda worker Ben Articulo called on the perpetrators to spare innocent civilians, also admitted that they get nervous during nighttime, because of the incident. Even members of the Agutero family sometimes do no sleep in their makeshift house, Articulo added.
If not for the banana and other trees, that had absorbed almost all the shrapnels, many hacienda workers and their families could have been hit, he also said.
Mayor Escalante also called on the town residents to remain calm and vigilant. ‘ We should not be cowed by threats and harassments, Let’s go out and exercise our right to vote,” she added.
In her message to investors, she said “We will protect you”. She also said Manapla is a peaceful town , and that investors is coming because of that.
Col. Jon Aying, 303 rd Infantry Brigade commander, had earlier said that they have not received reports that the New People's Army was behind the attack. “We don't believe it was them. These are goons,” Aying added.
Colado said the empty cartridge of 40mm high explosive have been turned over to the Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office for examination and to trace its origin.
The 40mm high explosive grenades are only issued to government forces, while lawless groups, including the NPA and the Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade, also use them, military and police records show.
Senior Supt. Ricardo de la Paz, officer-in-charge of the Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office, said it could also be purchased from the black market.*GPB