aj. Norman ‘Nonoy’ Zuniga, spokesperson of the Army’s 602nd Infantry Brigade, identified the fatalities as Private First Class Ruben Escobio and Reuben Ebon, member of the Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit (Cafgu), both under the Bravo Company of the Army’s 40th Infantry Battalion.
Zuniga said Escobio’s group of 15 soldiers and Cafgu was conducting routine patrol operations around Barangay Binuongan, Arakan when it was waylaid by a group of about 20 guerrillas under a certain Commander McCoy of the NPA Front 53.
Zuniga said the battle lasted for 30 minutes “and while outnumbered, the army managed to defend themselves prompting the NPA to withdraw in the mountainous parts of Arakan”.
“Our troops were in the area to verify reports from residents on the presence of armed men when ambushed,” Zuniga said.
Zuniga said they were able to recover two M-16 armalite rifles “but we were not able to recover the body of their members killed during the incident.”
Col. Ruperto Pabustan, the brigade commander, has ordered a manhunt for the guerrillas who took refuge in the mountainous portion within the boundary of Arakan in North Cotabato and Bukidnon.
Pabustan also instructed all detachment commanders in various parts of North Cotabato to be vigilant to counter the NPA’s activities. “We should double our effort to preempt any insurgency perpetrated by the New Peoples Army within our area of responsibility,” Pabustan said.
Pabustan also urged residents of North Cotabato not to support the NPA and to immediately report any information regarding their activities in their respective areas.
“If we want peace in our respective places, please let us all work to achieve it not by means of violence but through development,” he said. (Malu Cadelina Manar and Williamor Magbanua/MindaNews)