COTABATO CITY (MindaNews/11 May) — Gunmen believed to be communist rebels opened fire at a truck carrying election paraphernalia killing a school teacher and four government troopers in Compostela Valley province this morning, the military said.
Nine soldiers from the Army’s 66th Infantry Battalion and three poll watchers who hitchhiked on the truck were also wounded in the ambush staged by suspected New People’s Army rebels, said Col. Randolf Cabangbang, spokesperson of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Eastern Mindanao Command.
He said the victims were returning to Maragusan town with the PCOS machines, ballots and other election paraphernalia when the gunmen opened fire at them at around 9:10 a.m. this morning.
The slain teacher was identified as Merceditas Negro, who taught at Mahayahay Elementary School in Maragusan.
In a statement, the 10th Infantry Division said Negro was a poll watcher of Maragusan Mayor Cesar Colina who is seeking re-election.
It identified the slain soldiers as Sgt. Jose Osman, Pfc. Macrell Bakil, Cafgu Leonelo Maglangit and Cafgu Teodoro Camingawan.
The same statement named the three wounded civilians as Darwin Obello, a poll watcher of mayoralty candidate Arsenio Yanong; Milagros Restauro and Lita Tablingun both poll watchers of Mayor Colina.
Staff Sgt. Remy Inoslay, Sgt. William Erot, Pfc. Nasser Ukoman, Pfc. Romeo Felix, Pfc. Jhonrie Toytoy, Pfc. John de Vera, Pfc. Rey Toledo, Pfc. Barahama Maadil and Pvt. Datu Ali Akmad were also wounded, the 10th ID added.
An NPA spokesperson called Radio Mindanao Network in Davao City disclaiming any responsibility for the ambush.
In a statement written in Cebuano, the NPA’s Merardo Arce Command in Southern Mindanao said it will investigate the incident, adding the area where it happened teems with other armed groups.
The statement, signed by one Rigoberto Sanchez, accused the 10th ID of reporting a supposed ambush on May 7 in Barangay Taguibo, Mati, Davao Oriental which did not actually happen.
The NPA, however, said it would face their responsibility especially to the civilian victim if it was proven that their fighters were indeed behind the ambush.
Compostela Valley province is a known bailiwick of the communist rebels.
The NPA has been fighting the government since the 1970s. (Froilan Gallardo/MindaNews)