Troops wounded in clash with NPA rebels

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ZAMBOANGA CITY: Six policemen and a soldier were wounded in clashes with the New People’s Army (NPA) in two villages in Davao City, officials said on Wednesday.

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Eastern Mindanao Command spokesman Capt. Alberto Caber said the encounter between troops from the 84th Infantry Battalion and the Special Action Force and 30 rebels in Baracatan and Catigan villages in Toril District on Tuesday afternoon lasted 30 minutes.

“The troops were on a security patrol in the area for the protection of the civilians and community,” he said.

Caber said regional military chief Lt. Gen. Ricardo Rainier Cruz 3rd has ordered army commanders to stay vigilant and continue the operations against the NPA and any other threat groups.

The wounded were identified as Inspectors Ruel Manga, 35, Verindo Villamor, 24, PO3 Arthur Saavedra, 39, PO3 James Bnagayan, 29, PO1 Vincent Catalvas, 26 and PO1 John Ambog, 30.

Police spokesman Chief Insp. Jed Clamor said four of the policemen were being treated at Southern Philippines Medical Center while two others were under observation but in stable condition at Davao Adventist Hospital.

The NPA, however, has a different version on the incident.

Spokesperson Isabel Fermiza claimed that the raid ambushed the government troops, killing six and wounding six others.

Fermiza said rebel forces also seized an automatic rifle, one M203 grenade launcher, four military packs and vests, two ammunition links for K3 machine gun and a GPS.

“New People’s Army members under the Mt. Apo Sub-regional Command lured company-sized soldiers of the 84th Infantry Battalion of the 10th Infantry Division to the guerrilla hideout and Red fighters merely sidestepped and mounted an ambush position. The NPA’s successful tactical offensive in Toril, Davao City disproved hallucinations of AFP’s 10th Infantry Division Commanding General Maj. Gen. Ariel Bernardo, who boasted last week that the NPA forces are thinning out, losing ground, and limited to merely seven towns in Davao del Norte and Compostela Valley provinces.”

“The successful ambush also refuted AFP claims late last year that their Peace and Development Outreach Program made headways in Toril and the contiguous Sta. Cruz town, enough to make these areas “NPA-free,” Fermiza said.

She said Bernardo’s claims of accomplishment were merely “to justify the huge and heavily purloined AFP budget and the funds funnelled from mining and capitalists that finance the ongoing massive military operations in Southern Mindanao.”

Fermiza also accused the military as behind extra-judicial killings of civilians, torture and intimidation.

“The AFP has miserably failed not only to debilitate the fighting capacity of the NPA but also failed to ease the discontent of the masses. The AFP’s dismal record contains increasing head count not of NPA members but of civilian victims of extra-judicial killings, torture and intimidation.”

“On the other hand, the NPA’s successful tactical offensive in Toril, Davao City was not only due to its mastery in guerrilla warfare, but also due to the wide and warm support of the masses who are not fooled by the AFP’s Peace and Development Outreach Program,” Fermiza said.

Caber denied all Fermiza’s allegations and branded them as black propaganda. “These are all black propaganda and the rebels are the number one human rights violator. They attacked and killed innocent civilians in the pursuit of a senseless war.”

The NPA is fighting for decades now for the establishment of a communist state in the country.

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