WHILE the third round of the peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) was ongoing in Rome, Italy, the military accused the New People’s Army (NPA) of continuing its extortion activities in the countryside.
The Philippine Army’s 10th Infantry Division disclosed that recovered war materials from a series of encounters over the weekend in Barangay Biangan, Makilala, North Cotabato between security forces and the “lawless armed group,” belong to the NPA’s Guerrilla Front 51 of the Southern Mindanao Regional Committee (SMRC).
The military said the encounters happened after the group harassed a truck following a failed extortion attempt from a construction company.
Capt. Rhyan Batchar, 10th ID spokesman said that the Philippine National Police Scene of the Crime Operatives processed the incident site and examined the recovered cadaver of a man and war items which include three high-powered rifles, improvised explosive devices, 15 backpacks, handheld radios, and subversive documents.
Several extortion letters signed by a certain Ricardo Fermiza, spokesman of Guerilla 51, Davao del Sur-North Cotabato Operation Command of the NPA Southern Mindanao Region were also recovered.
On the allegation of the SMRC chief propagandist that eight soldiers were killed during the encounter, Maj. Gen. Rafael Valencia, 10th ID commander said his unit is inviting the public to scrutinize the records of the Makilala municipal police station, interview the people around the encounter site and check on all hospitals and funeral parlors in Regions 11 and 12 to determine who is telling the truth.
On Monday, Rigoberto Sanchez, NPA spokesman, said insurgents killed eight army soldiers in fierce clashes in Makilala town. He claimed soldiers from the 39th Infantry Battalion attacked rebel positions in the town’s hinterlands, sparking a running gunbattle that killed the government soldiers in the village of Biangan. One rebel was also killed.
“It is very sad that while the peace talks is on-going, there are armed groups who continue to use force and violence to terrorize and extort from the people,” Valencia said.
with L JACINTO