DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/19 July) – A government militiaman was killed and five members of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) were wounded in an ambush by suspected New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas along the Bukidnon-Davao Road around 6:30 a.m. on Wednesday.
Ben Padia, a member of the Civilian Armed Force Geographical Unit, was killed during the gunfight while Rogelio Mago Genon, 60, a purported “asset” of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group was abducted.
In a press release, Eastern Mindanao Command spokesperson Maj. Ezra Balagtey identified the wounded PSG members as SSgt. Arniel L. Matunhay, Sgt. Gerry N. Torsar, Cpl. Rodel A. Ledesma, Cpl. Ayam P. Alia and SSgt. Lisondra.
They were brought to the German Doctors Hospital in Marilog District, Davao City but were transferred to Camp Panacan Station Hospital at the Felix Apolinario Naval Station here.
“Casualties were already given medical treatment and the rest are in safe area,” he said.
The PSG members were on board a two-vehicle convoy from Davao City during the attack, Cotabato Provincial Police Office director Senior Supt. Emmanuel Baloloy Peralta said in a report released Wednesday.
The 10-man PSG team led by SSgt. Ferbello Galleno was heading for Cagayan de Oro City to prepare a facility where Duterte is scheduled to visit soldiers who were wounded in the Marawi siege.
Upon reaching Barangay Katipunan, Arakan town in Cotabato, Peralta said, some 150 NPA rebels in military outfits flagged down the convoy at a checkpoint they mounted with a Task Force Davao signage.
The NPA immediately escaped towards Barangay Gambudes, Arakan, Cotabato immediately after the encounter, he said.
Personnel from the 7th infantry Division and police from Arakan responded to the incident, he added.
Balagtey said the scheduled visit of the President to the wounded soldiers was intended to “boost their morale” amid the ongoing fight with the Islamic State-inspired Maute Group.
In a statement, the Task Force Davao said it condemns the attack. It said it operates in downtown Davao, its exit and entry points only, but not in Arakan.
Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella condemned the NPA attack but added that whether it will affect the possible resumption of peace talks with the National Democratic Front will depend on “the President’s advice and directive on the matter.”
The incident happened five days before the second State of the Nation Address of President Rodrigo R. Duterte. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)