by Niño Luces
Camp Gen. Simeon Ola, Legazpi City — Three innocent civilians, aged 9, 11, and 70, were killed in the crossfire when army troopers and New People’s Army (NPA) rebels battled it out in Cawayan municipality, Masbate last Thursday.
Senior Inspector Malu Calubaquib, Police Regional Office 5 (PRO5) spokesperson, identified the fatalities as Lolita Pepito, 70; Crislyn, 11, a Grade 4 pupil; and Reden, 9, all residents of Sitio Lubigan, Barangay Panan Awan in Cawayan.
Calubaquib said the Philippine Army’s 3rd Scout Ranger Company led by Lieutenant Karl John Cabillo had engaged seven NPA guerrillas in a gun battle when the rebels positioned themselves outside the house of Paulino C. Pepito, a 70-year-old widower, who was also wounded in the crossfire.
The report reaching the PRO5 did not mention whether the bullets that killed the three civilians and wounded Pepito in the left arm were fired by the rebels or the soldiers.
No one was killed or wounded on the side of government forces, said Calubaquib.
Rebel activity has been high in Masbate in recent weeks with armed encounter between the military and the NPA last Saturday resulting in the deaths of three guerrilla fighters in Barangay San Antonio, Milagros town.
Army Colonel Greg Almerol, commander of the 2nd Infantry Battalion (2IB), said the rebels, led by Ruel Ibañez, alias “Ka Gemo,” were in Barangay San Antonio to conduct extortion activities.