5 suspected NPA rebels killed in South Cotabato clash

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews / 2 December)— Five alleged fighters of the communist New People’s Army (NPA), including a woman, were killed in an encounter with government troops before dawn Wednesday in a remote village in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato, officials said.

Citing initial reports, Col. Jemuel Siason, South Cotabato police director, said that police and Army operatives clashed with the communist rebels in Sitio Kibang, Barangay Ned at 4:35 a.m. that resulted in the death of the NPA combatants.

He said the encounter ensued after the suspects fired at the troops who were serving the warrants of arrest for multiple murder, multiple frustrated murder and harassment against Bernie Canyon alias Delmar, commanding officer of Ordnance Platoon under Guerilla Front 53 of the Southern Mindanao Regional Command (SMRC), and his cohorts.

“The troops retaliated and returned fire, which resulted in the armed encounter,” he said in a text message.

Siason identified the fatalities as Canyon; Rogelio Magsaya alias Sarge and Delio, deputy commanding officer of the Pulang Bagani Command, SMRC; Romeo Hebron alias Frank and Melvin, head of the regional ordnance of SMRC; Ka Mercy, a member of the SMRC and wife of a certain Dulce; and alias Macoy also of SMRC.

The troops did not suffer any casualty, the official added.

After the encounter, Siason said the troops recovered one 5.56 M-16 rifle, one Carbine rifle, one caliber 45 pistol, one caliber 40 pistol, improvised explosives and several subversive documents.

The operating team was composed of the South Cotabato police command, Lake Sebu municipal police station, 2nd Provincial Mobile Force Company and the 5th Special Forces Battalion.

Mayor Floro Gandam said some of those slain rebels reportedly came from Davao de Oro, formerly known as Compostela Valley province.

The mayor said that several families fled to safer grounds to avoid getting caught in the crossfire.

There have been persistent reports about the presence of NPA rebels in Barangay Ned in the past several months, he told the local media.

“They are recruiting members of the T’boli tribe to become communist rebels,” Gandam said, noting the NPA’s strength in the area “is weakening” with the surrender earlier this year of 36 alleged NPA rebels and supporters.

Gandam said they have been bringing social services and infrastructure projects to Barangay Ned to discourage constituents there from revolting against the government.