By Martin Sadongdong
A suspected commander of the New People’s Army (NPA) and three of his alleged cohorts were killed in a firefight against government troops in Matnog, Sorsogon on Sunday.
The military identified the fatality as Robert Estiller alias Cindy/Meo, commanding officer of Sentro De Grabidad (SDG), Larangan 2, Komiteng Probinsya 3 of Bicol Regional Party Committee (BRPC).
The BRPC is said to be operating in the towns of Bulan, Irosin, Matnog, Magallanes, Castilla and Juban in Sorsogon.
Meanwhile, the identities of the three other suspects have yet to be verified.
Combined elements of the 31st Infantry Battalion (31IB), 91st Division Reconnaisance Company (91DRC), and First and Second Sorsogon Provincial Mobile Force Company (SPMFC) were conducting combat operations in response to a report of the presence of about 60 rebels when the encounter occured at Barangay Tugas around 5:50 a.m.
Major Ricky Anthony Aguilar, spokesperson of the 9th Infantry Division (9ID), said the firefight lasted for an hour and thirty minutes before the enemies withdrew and scurried to different directions, leaving their dead comrades behind.
Aguilar said no one was harmed on the side of the soldiers.
“Prior to the clash, the group was having an assembly and planning for a tactical offensive and at the same time conducting extortion activities as part of their schemes days before the Communist Party of the Philippines’ (CPP’s) anniversary this December 26,” Aguilar said.
Major General Fernando Trinidad, commander of the Joint Task Force Bicolandia (JTFB), directed the personnel of 31IB to conduct hot pursuit operations against the enemies and tighten the security in the area.
Trinidad also reminded the public to be wary of other illegal activities expected to be rolled out by the communist rebels in connection with their upcoming anniversary.
Nevertheless, Trinidad assured Bicolanos that the JTFB “will not put its guard down and will continue its intensified focused military operations to stop the armed group from spreading harm and violence especially this holiday season.”
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) earlier said that it will not declare Christmas truce with the NPA this December, but further strengthen its security measures against the enemies of the state planning to disrupt the joyful celebration of Christmas and New Year.