CATARMAN, N. Samar: Six days before the New Peoples Army-Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) declares its own ceasefire from December 24 to 26, an armed group believed to be NPA members ambushed and wounded two civilians and four soldiers in Brgy. Hinatad, Catarman, Northern Samar on Wednesday.
As this developed, the military and police in Negros Occidental are preparing for possible attacks of the New People’s Army (NPA) after the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) ordered tactical offensives nationwide.
Col. Benedict Arevalo, commander of the 303rd Infantry Brigade, said he ordered his troops to attack the NPA before the communist rebels’ strike.
He said there was nothing new in the CPP’s move, pointing out that the Philippine Army in Negros are alert at all times.
2Lt. Naya Fernandez, acting civil-military operations officer of the 43rd Infantry Battalion (43IB) based in Lope de Vega, said that around 11:58 a.m. on Wednesday, a group of army soldiers were en route to Catarman Poblacion on board a white Canter vehicle and upon reaching Brgy. Hinatad Bridge, some 7 kilometers away from Catarman, an improvised landmine planted at the right side of the road exploded.
After this, a volley of gunfire from the rebels followed, resulting in a firefight that lasted for around five minutes.
Fernandez told The Manila Times that soldiers were about to deliver food for their comrades in Brgy. Mckinley, Catarman.
The two wounded civilians were identified as Shirley Rubenacio, 35, and her son Mark Christian Rubenacio, 17; the soldiers who suffered minor injuries were Pvt. Rolly Dizon, Pfc Rorey Montopar, Pvt Joel Lacabe, and Cpl Jose L. Ballano, all from 43rd IB, Phil Army.
The army said there might be casualties on the rebels’ side because they saw blood stains along the route where the rebels fled.
The wounded civilians and soldiers were immediately brought to an undisclosed medical facility in Catarman town.
Fernandez told The Manila Times that the rebels fled towards the mountainous areas of Catarman, Lope de Vega and Matuguinao towns.
Both the PNP and the Army have join forces to go after the rebels.
Lt. Col, Apollo B. Herrera, commanding officer of the 43IB said the incident had brought panic and misery to innocent civilians.
He added that using anti-personnel mines and other terror activities were clear violations of the International Humanitarian Law and the Comprehensive Agreement for Respect on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.
“This incident shows that Communist New Peoples Army are not sincere in their offered unilateral truce this Christmas Season,” Herrera said.
Earlier, the AFP and the PNP on orders from their Commander in Chief beefed up their military and PNP forces in the whole Samar Island and other provinces.
In Northern Samar alone, the infantry battalion increased from two battalions before the issuance of Memo Circular 32 declaring Samar and other provinces across the country under “state of national emergency on account of lawless violence” to five battalions.
While PNP deployed more than 60 men and women coming from the Special Action Force to Samar provinces.
AFP, PNP braces for rebel attacks
Arevalo said, “The order of the CPP to the NPA to attack government forces confirms the fact that the CPP and their legal front — the National Democratic Front (NDF) — are in cahoots with the NPA,” he said.
Arevalo reminded Negrenses to condemn not only the NPAs, but also the CPP and NDF, for “trying to hide under the cloak of legality as they undermine the society, including the government.”
“They are using the law against the government to justify their activities that are actually violating the rule of law, and they are getting inside the government to destroy it from within,” the Army official added.
The Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office confirmed the order issued by Senior Supt. Rodolfo Castil Jr., police provincial director, to all PNP stations in the province pertaining to possible NPA attacks.
Castil directed the chiefs of police to intensify their action against the rebels and personally supervise the conduct of target hardening measures and offensive combat operations.
“Fortify and implement security measures of all subordinate units and ensure [the] alignment of respective provincial mobile forces that could support territorial units, particularly those identified [as] high-risk and vulnerable to enemy attack,” he added.