PALIMBANG, Sultan Kudarat (MindaNews /25 December) — At least seven members of the New People’s Army (NPA) were reportedly killed Wednesday night when a Philippine Air Force FA-50 fighter jet dropped six bombs in the hinterlands of Daguma Range, the military said, but only the remains of three rebels have so far been recovered.
Major General Juvymax Uy, commander of Joint-Task Force Central’s 6th Army Division, said the NPA guerrillas were killed when their base camp was hit by GPS-guided smart bombs fired by the FA-50 jet.
The FA-50 fighter jets were first used in the five-month Marawi siege in 2017.
Uy said they were able to monitor, through the help of residents and local officials, the movement of the rebels from the Far South Regional Committee ahead of the December 26 celebration of the 52nd anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines.
The air assault was followed with ground assault which led to the discovery of the base camp of the NPA in Sitio Kalumutan in the boundaries of Palimbang, Lebak, Kalamansig and part of Senator Ninoy Aquino town all in Sultan Kudarat province, Uy said.
“Instead of their planned hoisting of flag and expected anniversary activity in this place, our troops raised our Philippine flag,” he said.
Recovered from the blast site and encounter site are the remains of three rebels. Lt. Colonel Anhouvic Atilano, spokesperson of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said the bodies of the other slain rebels could have been blown apart by the blasts.
Recovered from the camps were around 100 bandolier bags, improvised explosive device (IED) components, laptop, generators, destroyed firearms and documents.
Local government officials from the towns involved attended the ceremonial flag-raising on Christmas Day, after the capture of the camp in Sitio Kalumutan.
Uy said this is the first time government forces captured a base camp of the Far South Regional Committee after years of operation in the Daguma range.
He lauded his troops for not letting up despite the Christmas season.
“Our last recourse and last option is to use arms but we are always open to accept them anytime they want to go back to the folds of the government,” Uy stressed.
No ceasefire was announced this year by the government and the National Democratic Front (NDF) which represents the CPP and the NPA in the peace talks. President Duterte called off the peace talks in November 2017 through Proclamation 360, citing alleged “lack of sincerity” of the NDF.
On December 5, 2017, Duterte issued Proclamation 374, designating the CPP and the NPA as terrorist organizations.
But back channel talks continued, leading to a declaration of unilateral ceasefire on both sides during the Christmas holidays last year.
On December 9 this year, the Anti-Terrorism Council, a body created under the Ant-Terror Act of 2020, approved Resolution No. 12 designating the CPP and NPA as terrorist organizations.
The resolution states that there is probable cause that the CPP-NPA committed acts defined as terrorism under the Anti-Terrorism Act, and should be tagged as “terrorist organizations, associations or groups of persons.” (Ferdinandh B. Cabrera / MindaNews)