By Francis Wakefield
Fifteen suspected New People’s Army (NPA) rebels, six of them women, were killed in two encounters with government troops in Nasugbu, Batangas, Tuesday night.
Brigadier General Arnulfo Marcelo B. Burgos Jr., commander of the 202nd Infantry Brigade which supervised the operations, said the clashes between members of the NPA Guerrilla Unit 3 of the Southern Tagalog Regional Party Committee and members of the 730th Combat Group of the Philippine Air Force, Batangas Provincial Public Safety Company, Nasugbu Municipal Police Station, and various intelligence units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), took place in Barangays Aga and Kaylaway, near the Nasugbu-Tagaytay Road.
The communist rebels were on board a vehicle when government forces clashed with them for around 20 to 40 minutes.
As other rebels fled, the bodies of their slain comrades were retrieved by soldiers from the encounter site. One of the fatalities in Tuesday’s clash was identified as a student of a premier state university, which authorities did not name. The military is also verifying if an NPA leader or commander was among those killed in the firefight.
Burgos said government troops seized 12 high-powered firearms, consisting of 10 M-16 rifles, one M-16 rifle with M203 grenade launcher, and an M-79 grenade launcher– from the encounter site.
Two wounded terrorists were also given first aid by soldiers and were immediately taken to the nearest hospital for medical treatment.Unfortunately, one of the NPA fighters initially identified as one Josephine Santiago Lapera alias Ella, 22, from Marikina, later expired due to the wounds she sustained.
“We put premium to the lives of our fellow Filipinos that is why when they lost their ability to fight, we extended a helping hand to save them and give them the chance to defend themselves before the court of law as they answer for their evil deeds” Burgos said.
Burgos said the slain NPAs are believed to be remnants of the same terrorist group which suffered heavy casualties in September, including during an encounter with the elements of the 730th Combat Group under Major EngelbertoNiodaon November 20, 2017, in Barangay Utod, Nasugbu.
During that clash, the secretary of the NPA Guerrilla Unit 3 and one platoon leader were among those killed.
Burgos said the leadership vacuum brought about by the death of these NPA leaders signals the eventual demise of insurgency in Batangas.
Even before President Duterte’s pronouncement that the NPAs will be classified as terrorists, Burgos said security forces in the region intensified their counterinsurgency operations to put an end to their extortion activities and preempt any hostile actions that may hamper the booming economic potentials of Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon) region.
Meanwhile, Major General Rhoderick M. Parayno, commander of the Army’s 2nd Infantry Division, said the NPAs which the government forces engaged Tuesday have been on the run since September.
“This is in line with the President’s pronouncement that NPAs are terrorists. Your soldiers are more committed than ever to push harder and finally put an end to this insurgency in order to protect the Filipino people from fear and atrocities which the NPA terrorists plan to sow while ensuring the safety of our citizens in the area,”Parayno said
Parayno added that “all available assets, including aircraft, are on red alert.
“The NPAs will face the full might of the government that is why we call on their families to convince their relatives who are still blinded by their false ideology to give up their arms and prevent them from suffering the fate of the 15 terrorists who died tonight,” he said on Tuesday.
Parayno added that five soldiers suffered minor wounds and are now in stable condition.
Pursuit operations were launched by joint forces of the military and the Philippine National Police (PNP) against the fleeing NPAs. (With a report from AFP)