Hundreds flee as Army pounds suspected rebel positions

Rudy Cadunggan, village chair of Batang, said the mortar attack started when elements of the 38th IB and Front 74 of the New Peoples’ Army clashed along the boundary of Barangays Lumusong and Batang, around 11 a.m., Friday.

Cadunggan believed the attack was part of the Army’s pursuit operations against the NPA rebels that raided their detachment in Barangay Bituan which was declared in the early ‘90s as a zone of peace.

The rebels, allegedly led by NPA commanders Tao-Tao and Ka Joey of Front 74, seized 22 firearms, including 18 garand rifles, during the morning raid on All Souls' Day.

Since Friday night, Cadunggan said, nine mortar shells had already landed between Lumusong and Batang. But he could not say whether the shelling had caused some damage in the area.

He said the mortars were fired from an Army detachment in Barangay Gaungan in Makilala, a village located west of Tulunan.

He said hundreds of residents from the affected areas have evacuated to the center of Barangay Batang.

“This is why we’re calling on the company commanders of the Army in the area to stop the mortar shelling and let the displaced families evacuate to my village and in other safer grounds,” he said in the vernacular.

In a radio interview, Tulunan Mayor Nestor Taasan assured the evacuees that they would be provided temporary shelter in different public schools in Batang.

He also planned to hold a meeting with Army officials as well as rebel commanders in his town to prevent the conflict from escalating.