Communist rebels killed eight police commandos in an ambush in Cagayan Valley on Monday.
The members of the Philippine National Police Special Action Force were on their way to a medical exam in the town of Allacapan, when a landmine exploded under their vehicle.
The explosion was followed by firing from about 30 New People’s Army rebels who were lying in wait by the roadside, Cagayan Valley Regional Police Director, Chief Supt. Rodrigo de Gracia, reported.
Seven other policemen were wounded in the attack. They survived by hiding in the undergrowth until government reinforcements arrived.
De Gracia said the rebels belong to the NPA’s Danilo Ven Command.
Sr. Supt. Gregorio Lim, Cagayan police director, identified seven of the slain policemen only as PO3 Tabajero, the team leader, PO2 Pinated, PO2 Cubilla, PO1 Brioso, PO2 Mateo, PO1 Sanchez and PO2 Bowat.
Wounded were PO2 Gomez, PO1 Dolete, PO1 Andangi, PO1 Asunio, PO2 Castulo, PO2 Moony, PO2 Amilagan amd PO2 Dalauidao. They were brought to the district hospital in Ballesteros town in Cagayan and later transferred to the Cagayan Valley Medical Center in Tuguegarao City.
Malacañang on Monday condemned the NPA attack, which came just two days after seven Marines were killed in a clash with the Abu Sayyaf in Patikul, Sulu province.
“We condemn the attack on our people and what I can tell you right now from the PNP is that their pursuit operations against the perpetrators are ongoing,” Palace deputy spokesman Abigail Valte said in a press briefing.
Valte said the government will provide assistance to the families of the policemen.
The Special Action Force is an elite police unit trained in counter-insurgency tactics that is typically involved in security operations against communist rebels.
The NPA has been waging a 44-year-old Maoist armed campaign that has claimed at least 30,000 lives, according to a government estimate.
The government said in April peace talks with the communists had collapsed and a target of ending the insurgency by 2016 was impossible to achieve.
The NPA, which is believed to have about 4,000 fighters, has conducted a series of high-profile attacks this year.
The deadliest occurred in January, when nine police and security forces were killed in another ambush. Last month rebels also killed two aides of a town mayor who is a member of President Benigno Aquino 3rd’s Liberal Party.
WITH REPORTS FROM CATHERINE VALENTE, LEANDER DOMINGO AND AFP