5 villagers slain by troops are rebels – AFP

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DAVAO CITY: The Philippine military on Sunday maintained that five people killed by soldiers in a clash in Bukidnon province were all members of the communist rebel group New People’s Army (NPA).

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Captain Joe Patrick Martinez, a spokesman for the 4th Infantry Division, said the police have already released the results of laboratory examination conducted on the cadavers.

“They were all positive for gunpowder burns and this further strongly proves that they had fired weapons and [that they are]not civilians as what the NPA has been saying,” he added.

Martinez said the rebels were slain in a recent firefight with members of the 1st Special Forces Battalion in the village of Mendis in Pangantucan town.

The clash also left two soldiers–Lieutenant Alvin Balangcod and Private First Class Virgil Rubante–wounded.

General Oscar Lactao, the Army division commander, said they would provide assistance to the families of the rebels.

“It is unfortunate that this incident has happened. We extend our condolences and express our sympathies to the families of the dead NPA members. Through our local government, we will provide necessary assistance to the concerned local officials in order to facilitate the decent burial of the dead NPA members,” he added.

Lactao urged other rebels to surrender peacefully and avail of the government’s amnesty program.

“It is now time to stop violence and give peace a chance. I am encouraging our brothers and sisters who are still blinded by the lies and deceit of the NPA rebels to return back to the folds of the law and lead a more peaceful life. The armed struggle is not the answer to our country’s problem. Let us all work together to live a harmonious and peaceful community,” he said.

There was no immediate statement from the NPA, which has been fighting for many decades now for the establishment of a separate state.

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