AT least five Philippine Army soldiers, two of them intelligence operatives, were killed and nine others were wounded in separate attacks by suspected members of the New Peoples Army (NPA) in Quezon and Davao Oriental on the eve of President Rodrigo Duterte’s State of the Nation Address.
Major Gen. Roderick Parayno, commanding officer of the Army’s 2nd Infantry Division in Tanay, Rizal recounted that a 10-minute firefight ensued when soldiers of the 76th Infantry Battalion led by Corporal (Cpl.) Panadera encountered about seven suspected NPA members while they were on patrol at about 5:30 a.m. on Monday in Sitio Bantigue in Barangay Cagsiay 2, Mauban, Quezon.
The fatality was identified as Cpl. Argel Joseph dela Cruz.
The rebels reportedly retreated bringing with them their wounded comrades as shown in the bloodstains along their escape route.
On Saturday, the rebels reportedly burned the barracks and four heavy equipment of RTY Construction in Lopez, Quezon.
Also, at about midnight of July 23, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) detachment in Barangay San Antonio in Kalayaan, Laguna was attacked by the rebels with volleys of gunfire. No casualty was reported.
Police Region 4A Director, Chief Supt. Mao Aplasca instructed all provincial directors and chiefs of police to be on full alert and coordinate their actions closely with their AFP counterparts.
Rebel spokesman Rigoberto Sanchez said that four soldiers, two of them intelligence operatives, were killed in separate NPA attacks in Davao Oriental over the weekend.
He said killed in the attacks was Sgt. Cerilo Galigaw and another unnamed soldier in the village of Caningag, Caraga town. Both soldiers were intelligence operatives who engaged rebels in a firefight to evade capture.
“Sgt. Galigaw’s mission order confirmed his assignment under the Philippine Army’s Military Intelligence Battalion as an agent operating in Regions 10, 11, 12 and 13. The other operative did not have any identification with him,” Sanchez said.
He added that text messages in Galigaw’s cell phone revealed he was to gather tactical information on the NPA’s most recent prisoner of war Alfredo Basabica Jr., who was arrested in Cateel town last July 11.
He said the soldiers were intercepted in the village where NPA rebels were meeting with civilians who accused the military of recruiting locals to work as spies for the 67th Infantry Battalion.
Sanchez added that two Special Forces soldiers were also killed and nine others injured in rebel attack in Kitubo village, Kitaotao, Bukidnon. He branded the soldiers’ unit – 2nd Special Forces Company – as “notorious for terrorizing civilians in Kitaotao, specially the lumad families in the village of White Culaman who were forced to evacuate in 2015 and were never able to return to their farms and communities.”
He also accused the military of violating civilian rights in the region and criticized Duterte’s prolonged martial law in Mindanao. “The railroaded extension of martial law in Mindanao will undoubtedly embolden the Armed Forces’ impunity to commit more serious human rights violations against the masses. Already, Duterte is setting the stage for an all-out attack against revolutionary forces, which, in Armed Forces’ parlance is every farmer, lumad and child in the countryside.”
WITH AL JACINTO AND BELLY OTORDOZ