GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/16 December) – Government forces in Sarangani Province captured a suspected leader of the New People’s Army (NPA) and three of his comrades following an encounter early Wednesday in a remote village in Alabel town.
Maj. Adolfo Espuelas Jr., commander of the 73rd Infantry Battalion, said Thursday they nabbed the suspected rebels after a 15-minute firefight that erupted at around 5am Wednesday in Sitio Kilala, Barangay Pag-asa in Alabel.
He identified the suspected rebels as Toning Mungkil alias Kumander Monkey, Joel Mungkil alias Joe, Benito Balbino alias Ben and Ricky Mungkil alias Muril.
Espuelas said the four were members of the Platoon Mazda of the NPA’s Front 71, which is reportedly operating in the mountainous tri-boundaries of Alabel and Malapatan towns in Sarangani and Malita in Davao del Sur.
“We’ve been pursuing this group for quite some time now because aside from their involvement with the NPA, they were also engaged in cattle rustling activities and armed robberies in the area,” he told reporters.
Espuelas said the four rebels were among the former bandits based in the province who allegedly joined the NPA through a “blood compact” or “dyandi” with the leaders of the guerilla unit.
Following the encounter, he said their troops recovered from the rebels an Armalite rifle, a Garand rifle, two chainsaws and an alleged stolen carabao.
“(The carabao) was evidence that they were really behind the rampant cattle rustling activities in the area,” the Army official said.
Meantime, Espuelas said at least 35 NPA rebels in the area have reportedly signified to lay down their arms within the coming days.
He said such development came after several weeks of negotiations with members of an NPA unit reportedly based in the boundaries of Barangay Pag-asa in Alabel amd Barangay Upper Suyan in Malapatan town, also in Sarangani.
“This is the result of our continuing efforts to reach out to them and the government’s peace and development initiatives in the area,” Espuelas said.
He added that the 35 rebels decided to surrender supposedly due to the uncertainty of their cause and their longing to lead normal lives anew with their respective families. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)