ZAMBOANGA CITY – Communist rebels took responsibility for attacking government troops in the southern Philippine provinces of Davao del Sur and North Cotabato that killed at least eight soldiers.
Isabel Fermiza, a spokesperson for the New People’s Army (NPA), said the rebel offensive was launched by the Guerrilla Front 51 Operations Command under the Mount Apo Sub-regional Command, in Digos and Makilala towns, where the 39th Infantry Battalion of the Army’s 10th Infantry Division is based.
Fermiza said rebel forces bombed an army detachment in the village of Old Bulatukan in Makilala and ambushed troops in Goma village in Digos.
He said eight soldiers were killed and nine were wounded. The NPA lost one fighter, who Fermiza identified as Ka Jiboy, and two other NPA guerrillas were wounded.
Fermiza said government soldiers were behind the detention of indigenous villagers, who were just hunting in the forest of Makilala, and interrogated them for many hours until local officials pleaded for their safe release.
He identified the villagers as Elorde Panggilan, Denis Panggilan, Dexter Panggilan, Ariel Panggilan, Randy Emban, Lodring Emban, Ryan Baclao, Jonel de Guzman, Wowie de Guzman, Henry Ando and Roel de Vera.
“The incident was a prelude to more abusive activities by the 39th Infantry Battalion Special Operations Teams in Makilala, ranging from psychological warfare, forced surrender, and encampment in civilian structures in all of the town’s barangays,” Fermiza said.
The 10th Infantry Division earlier declared Davao del Sur as free from rebel influence. There was no immediate reaction from army officials about the NPA’s claims.