GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/25 June) – Three suspected New People’s Army (NPA) rebels were killed while several others were believed wounded following an encounter with government troops over the weekend in the mountainous boundaries of Sarangani and Davao del Sur provinces.
Lt. Col. Adolfo Espuelas Jr., commanding officer of the Army’s 73rd Infantry Battalion, said Monday said the clashes occurred after they responded on Saturday morning to reports on the presence of NPA rebels in villages situated along the boundaries of Mapalatan town in Sarangani and Jose Abad Santos in Davao del Sur.
He said their troops caught up with around 25 heavily-armed rebels in Sitio Datal D’lag, Barangay Kulaman of Jose Abad Santos town, where the two-hour firefight ensued.
“We sent our troops to the area to address complaints from tribal residents there that a group of NPA rebels had been reportedly harassing, extorting and forcing them to attend their lectures,” Espuelas said in a radio interview.
After the encounter, the official said they recovered three bodies of slain alleged NPA rebels who were only identified by local residents as Marvin, Bobong and Berting.
He claimed that residents told the soldiers many rebels were also wounded, although this could not be confirmed.
He said they recovered two M14 rifles, an M16 Armalite rifle, a handheld radio and assorted bullets from the slain rebels.
There were no casualties from the government side as a result of the encounter, he said.
Citing results of their initial verification, Espuelas said aliases Marvin and Bobong were allegedly team leaders of squad 1 and 2, respectively, of the “Sentro de Grabidad Andoy” of the NPA’s Front 71 headed by Kumander Brigol.
But as of Monday morning, he said no one has come forward to claim the remains of the slain rebels, who were brought to this city late Saturday by a Philippine Air Force chopper.
Espuelas said their troops are currently conducting follow-up pursuit operations in a bid to clear the area of the NPA’s presence.
He said the Army’s 1002nd Infantry Brigade based in Malungon town has sent additional troops under its Task Force Mulawin to augment the clearing operations.
The task force was created earlier this month as part of the renewed operations launched by the 1002nd Brigade against NPA rebels who had taken refuge in upland villages of Malungon town in Sarangani. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)