KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews / 20 July) – Army soldiers pursuing a group of New People’s Army (NPA) rebels found a cadaver which the military claims to be part of the NPA group that ambushed a Presidential Security Group (PSG) convoy along the Davao-Cotabato-Bukidnon highway.
Arakan Mayor Rene Rubino said soldiers belonging to the Army’s 39th Infantry Battalion brought the cadaver to a funeral parlor in the Poblacion around 7 p.m. on Wednesday, two hours after his body was recovered at Sitio Bugasong, Barangay Napaliko.
Rubino said the suspected rebel was apparently not from the area. “No one from Barangay Napaliko knew who the person was. I believe he came from the other town,” he added.
The rebels, according to Rubino, withdrew to Barangay Napaliko after 39IB soldiers and other military units assigned near Barangay Gambodes arrived at the ambush site to rescue trapped PSG members.
The mayor, citing as basis information from some barangay officials in Napaliko, said the communist guerillas used as “human shields” some villagers as they exited towards White Kulaman Valley in nearby Kitao-tao town in Bukidnon while they were being pursued by government troops.
The hostages were later released by the rebels, according to Rubino.
Lt. Col. Harold Argamosa, 39IB commander, claimed the NPAs lost a number of lives and many of them wounded during the pursuit operations as evidenced by traces of blood in the area.
He said they used two Huey helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles or drones in their pursuit operations.
Reports from the Arakan PNP said the NPAs, clad in military uniforms, set up a checkpoint in Barangay Gambodes around 3 a.m. Wednesday.
A certain Ben Padian, who identified himself as member of the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) assigned at Paquibato District in Davao City, was killed after he was flagged down along the highway.
The armed men also snatched a retired Marine soldier identified as Rogelio Genon and his Ford Ranger was used by the NPAs as getaway vehicle.
Rubino said he has yet to check on Genon’s whereabouts. However, a text message coming from one of the leaders of the NPA Front 53 informed media in North Cotabato that they still have Genon in their custody.
The PSG convoy – a black Nissan and white Ford E-150 – were riddled with bullets when they were stopped at the checkpoint.
The black Nissan reportedly sped towards Bukidnon but was also flagged down along the road.
The bulletproof Ford E-150 remained at the ambush site and the wounded PSG members were pulled out from the vehicle by 39IB soldiers who responded to the area. The injured were rushed to a German Hospital in Barangay Buda, Paquibato District for treatment.
Wounded were Staff Sergeants Matunhay, Lisondra, and Garry Torsak, and Corporals Ayam Aliao and Rodel Ledesma, all members of the Philippine Army who are deployed with the PSG.
In a statement, the Communist Party of the Philippines said that fighters of the First Pulang Bagani Company manning a checkpoint at Barangay Katipunan in Arakan flagged down a “white unmarked and heavily-tinted armored vehicle” later identified as belonging to the PSG. It was reportedly part of their campaign “to fight martial law in Mindanao.”
“The vehicle’s driver rolled down his window and introduced himself as an Army man. Upon realizing the checkpoint was not being manned by AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines] soldiers, he immediately drew his gun and stepped on the gas while rolling up his window. NPA fighters fired at the vehicle, hitting its tires and disabling it,” the CPP said.
A second PSG vehicle, apparently referring to the black Nissan, reportedly raced through the highway while firing at the NPA fighters and managed to get past the checkpoint, leaving the disabled van behind with trapped PSG members.
“The NPA approached the disabled armored vehicle and ordered its passengers to alight. The passengers declared they are not going to resist but insisted they could not come out of the autolocked vehicle. Ordered to withdraw, the NPA unit left the site before 7 a.m.,” the CPP said. (Malu Cadelina Manar / MindaNews)