Zambales police inside compound 'taken over' by Palparan
Palparan and his team of police and military agents raided the Masinloc project Tuesday while charges were being filed against him for allegedly "taking over" a mining site in Bulacan province.
An undetermined number of armed officers from the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group and soldiers from the 24th Infantry Battalion stormed the mining site of the Coco Mining Inc. (CMI) in Barangay Baluganon.
Members of the Zambales police led by Senior Superintendent Rolando Felix arrived at the gates of the mining compound in Barangay Baluganon Wednesday morning along with Edgar Garcia, president of CMI.
Garcia said CMI is responsible for the affairs of the site. Company officials brought documents that will allow them to enter the gates to "regain control of the compound."
Unidentified armed guards at the gate refused to let police and company officials enter the compound.
Zambales police, however, forced themselves in against the will of the armed guards.
As of this posting, the policemen from Zambales were conducting a perimeter check in the area to find the armed men who allegedly beat up several employees of the company Tuesday.
Negotiations are reportedly being set later in the afternoon between Palparan and the president of the mining company.
Employees allegedly hurt, forced out
Employees at the mining compound in Zambales site told ABS-CBN News that Palparan's men allegedly hurt them and took their personal belongings, including their cellular phones. The employees were also allegedly forced out of the mining site.
Following the raid, the employees held a vigil in front of the site's gates to protest the incursion.
Palparan: 'Augmentational security'
Palparan, who was still at the mining site as of Wednesday morning, evaded the media seeking an explanation for the raid.
Palparan talked to ABS-CBN earlier over the phone to state that there was no takeover and that all they did was an "augmentational security in the area". No details or clarification of his statement has yet been given.
Palparan’s role in leading the Army soldiers and CIDG members was also unclear as of posting.
Palparan was formerly the commanding general of Army’s 7th Infantry Division which had Central Luzon as its area of responsibility. Activist organizations have accused the then Army general of involvement in forced disappearances and extrajudicial killings in the region.
Charges in Bulacan
The group of the former general raided the mining site in Zambales while charges were being filed against him for taking over an iron ore mine site of Ore Asia Mining and Development Corp. in Doña Remedios Trinidad, Bulacan on April 12.
Former solicitor general Frank Chavez, Ore Asia's lawyer, led the filing of the charges of robbery through force and intimidation, grave coercion, serious physical detention and usurpation of real interest in real property against Palparan.
The other respondents of the complaint were a certain Lt. Col. Pederito Santos, lawyer Arturo Mercader, Barangay Camachin chairman Romy Santiago and 150 John Does.
Ore Asia told the Bulacan Provincial Prosecutor's Office that Palparan personally led the assault on the 442-hectare mine site in Barangay Camachin.
Ore Asia is one of the contractors of Oro Development Corp., which has a mineral production sharing agreement from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
The company said Palparan's men were armed with high-powered firearms like M-16 rifles, M-203 grenade launchers and M-60 machine guns.
Vicente Altobano, the company’s security chief, said the armed men, who wore fatigues but without any name patches or insignias, took the cellular phones, service firearms and other communications devices of his personnel and held them against their will and at gunpoint for almost 20 hours.
Altobano said his security officers managed to free themselves when Palparan’s group fled from the site following the arrival of mediamen the next day.
Danny Ong, spokesman of Ore Asia, said the company is currently in the middle of an internal dispute between two groups of stockholders, with Mercader belonging to one faction.
Ong said Mercader’s group earlier sought the reinstatement of another mining operator that was earlier booted out of the mine site by the DENR for allegedly violating environmental rules and regulations.
Palparan had denied having a hand in the assault on the Ore Asia mine site and belied reports that he is serving as a consultant of Oro Development Corp.
In a press briefing, former Solicitor General Frank Chavez, an adviser of Ore Asia, said Palparan was no longer the "Butcher," but a "hired dog," alluding to claims that the former Army general was behind the killings of militants in Luzon and the Visayas during his tours of duty there. ABS-CBN NEWS With a report from The Philippine Star