by Mike U. Crismundo and Francis T. Wakefield
Cabadbaran City, Agusan del Norte – Government troops captured a New People’s Army (NPA) camp in Agusan del Norte, the first after the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) renewed its all-out war against the local communist group.
The NPA encampment in Kahanginan area of Barangay San Antonio, Remedios Trinidad Romualdez (RTR), Agusan del Norte, was seized after combat maneuvering troops engaged NPA rebels in almost 10 minutes of gunfight that started at 9:50 a.m. yesterday, Lt. Col. Joy U. Aynera, commanding officer of the 29th Infantry Battalion (29th IB) said.
No rebel was captured as the communist guerrillas, believed to be members of CPP-NPA Northeastern Mindanao Regional Committee, abandoned their camp and fled to the nearby Mount Ilong-Ilong area, said Col. Cristobal N. Zaragoza, commanding officer of the 401st Infantry Brigade, citing the report of Aynera.
As of reporting time, combat maneuvering troops of the 29th IB are still conducting pursuit operations against the fleeing rebels.
Troops seized an M14 rifle, assorted ammunition, communist documents, and foodstuffs, said Aynera who added that no one was hurt in the encounter.
“This is a clear indication that the people in this side of the province support the anti-insurgency campaign as the nearby populace reported the presence of the NPA armed group conducting extortion activities in the area. The community can no longer bear the extortion demands and intimidation of the NPA bandits that they reported their presence and we responded as part of our mandate to protect the communities and uphold their right to live peacefully,” Aynera added.
Zaragoza also said they will continue combat operations against the NPA pursuant to President Duterte’s order of an all-out war against the communist rebels following the lifting of the government’s cesefire declaration.
NPAs kidnap cop
In Bukidnon, suspected NPA rebels stormed Barangay Tikalaan, Talakag town, killing one resident, kidnapping a policeman and another person, and burning heavy equipment yesterday.
Army spokesman Colonel Benjamin Hao identified the slain victims as Lito Siagan Atoy, 48, of Barangay Tikalaan.
The Talakag Municipal Police Station said the rebels, on board two dump trucks and an L300 van, raided Atoy’s residence, introducing themselves as NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) agents at around 5 a.m. yesterday. They forcibly took Atoy with them and then proceeded to Km 28 in the same barangay.
This happened after the rebels, some of them in camouflage uniform and NBI caps, carted away two dump trucks owned by Mindanao Rock Corporation, which is located in the same compound where Atoy resides.
At around 6 a.m. the same day, another group of NPA rebels conducting checkpoint along the highway in Km 24 flagged down and kidnapped Police Office 2 Anthony Natividad of the Kalilangan Municipal Police Station, and a still another unidentified person.
Reports added that the NPA rebels also took five motorcycles from motorists.
An hour later, NPA rebels burned two dump trucks, a generator set, a cement mixer, and a backhoe owned by Mindanao Rock Corporation, also in Km 28.
Hao said the heavy equipment are being used to construct roads in the area.
Hours later, the NPA rebels killed Atoy and fled toward Lanao del Sur, bringing with them their two captives.
Benguet rebel attack
In Benguet, suspected NPA rebels, including an amazon, burned two Volvo trucks owned by the Philex Mining Corporation at Sitio Tapak, Barangay Ampucao, Itogon, yesterday morning.
Sketchy reports bared that the trucks were delivering ore concentrates to Poro Point in La Union when the rebels flagged down the vehicles along the Philex Road, between Sitio Tapak and Barangay Ampucao Central.
Senior Supt. Angelito Casimiro, deputy regional director operations of the Police Regional Office-Cordillera, said the incident caused panic and fear among residents in the area, forcing the the suspension of elementary and high school classes.
Benguet policemen have already launched a manhunt for the rebels.
A day before, a suspected NPA member was arrested in La Trinidad, Benguet, for frustrated murder following the burning of the vehicles, also owned by Philex Mining Corporation.
Zambo del Sur clash
Last Wednesday, government troops seized four cellular phones, several live ammunition of AK47 and caliber .45, medical kit, and backpacks with personal belongings and communist documents after brief encounter with NPA fighters.
Army Captain Jo-Ann D. Petinglay, spokesman of the AFP Western Mindanao Command, said soldiers from Joint Task Force Zamboanga Peninsula and Lanao (ZamPeLan), chanced upon the rebels at about1:15 p.m. Wednesday in Barangay Mati Tigbao, Zamboanga del Sur.
Petinglay said soldiers from the 53rd Infantry Battalion under the JTF ZamPeLan were on security patrol after locals reported the presence of armed men when the clash took place. The suspected NPA rebels reportedly belong to the Sandatahang Yunit Panggubatan Kara, Western Mindanao Regional Party Committee. (With a report from Zaldy Comanda)