DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/ 26 November) – Joint police and Army operatives engaged suspected New People’s Army rebels in a firefight at around 1:30am Monday in Purok 10, Talomo Cemento, Talomo District, Davao City.
The rebels belong to the NPA Special Partisan Unit and were staying at the now abandoned Victorio Beach Resort, Chief Supt. Marcelo Casabuena Morales, Philippine National Police Region 11 director told reporters at the sidelines of a press conference at the Linmarr Hotel here.
Morales said they were the same NPA rebels that clashed with the police last month in Barangay Langub and were part of the supposed “Red October” plot to oust President Rodrigo R. Duterte.
He denied rumors spreading on social media that the rebels were members of the Islamic State-inspired Maute Group who had entered the city from the sea.
A report released by the Davao City Police Office said joint police and Army forces conducted the operation to serve the warrant of arrest against the group led by a certain “Jeffrey”, commander of the Pulang Bagani Command 1 of the NPA.
The NPA commander has a pending warrant of arrest for two counts of murder, serious illegal detention, robbery in band, and attempted murder, it added.
Morales said the communist guerillas opened fire first and lobbed several fragmentation grenades prompting the operatives to fight back.
He said the rebels managed to escape due to the “premature approach” of the security forces that compromised the “surprise” operation.
But the resort’s caretaker was taken into custody by the authorities for being a “person of interest,” he said.
He said the operatives found it difficult to approach the resort because it was still dark and while the surrounding areas had dense grasses and an ongoing construction of a canal.
He surmised the rebels might have slipped through the nearby community of informal settlers.
He said the authorities learned about their whereabouts because of reports of suspicious persons from the local people.
The old resort had been monitored for several weeks.
“The community noticed very suspicious persons, sometimes they are riding motorcycles, some did not come out of the compound for several days, sometimes there’s people inside. They immediately reported it to the police and we conducted surveillance to verify the suspicious persons,” he said.
Morales said the area has no permanent checkpoints except for the random mobile ones.
Police recovered one unit of M-16 Rifle A1 loaded with one magazine with 20 pieces of ammunition, one short magazine loaded with 16 ammunition, five pieces of Claymore mines, two pieces of improvised explosive device, assorted ammunition and empty shells of firearms, air guns and two pellet guns, batteries and electrical wires, assorted electrical tools, electrical tapes, two pieces grenade safety levers, one laptop with charger, assorted USB drives, one cellphone, DVDs and some documents. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)