MAKILALA, North Cotabato – Three suspected members of the New People’s Army (NPA) and a member of the Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) were killed while five others were wounded in an intense battle that involved helicopters dropping bombs from midnight till daybreak Monday (22 January 2018) in a village here.
Lt. Col. Rhojun Rosales, newly installed commander of the Army’s 39th Infantry Battalion, said a still undetermined number of NPA guerillas attacked a CAFGU detachment at Sitio Garing, Barangay Luayon in Makilala, and used the villagers as shields while government troops pursued them.
The Army said names of the slain and wounded CAFGU members would soon be available to the public once their families have been informed of the incident.
A CAFGU member who asked not to be identified said the battle was fought up close. He said he did not expect to survive as they were already surrounded by rebels and five of his comrades were already wounded.
He said artillery support helped them survive.
Rosales said the NPAs sought shelter in civilian houses. “So it was very hard for our troops to fire,” he added.
Residents said they heard Howitzer fires that even hit some of the houses.
Nina Tabacon, a resident of Sitio Garing, said she heard the NPA rebels taunting the rebels to surrender. “The CAFGU replied that they will not surrender,” she added.
“The CAFGUs advised us to hide in our houses. So we closed our doors and windows and grouped the children,” Tabacon said.
Her nephew Ritchie Tabacon said that during a lull in the firefight, he ran away from his house. “Had I not left soon enough, I could have been hit by shrapnel from the bombs [dropped from helicopters],” he added.
Nina said they are still awaiting word from the barangay captain and the soldiers if they have to evacuate or not. “But if they tell us to leave, then we’ll leave,” she added.
Jose Caparida, supervisor of the Department of Education’s Makilala central district, said they also saw helicopters hover the sky and heard shots from the ground around 3 a.m. Monday.
Despite the disturbance, classes were not suspended at Barangay Luayon, according to Caparida.
Rosales said there was no displacement of villagers.
Meantime, the bodies recovered from the encounter site were already brought to funeral homes in Makilala while the wounded CAFGU members were brought to nearby hospitals for treatment. (Ferdinandh Cabrera & Malu Cadelina Manar / MindaNews)