“We grieved for the death of our soldiers, and we salute them for their display of the finest tradition of soldiery.”
This was the statement issued by Brig. General Gilbert I. Gapay, commander of Joint Task Force Haribon which has the operational jurisdiction over Davao City.
Seventeen soldiers belonging to 3rd Infantry Battalion of the Philippine army were wounded while two others were killed when hit by a landmine mounted by the New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in Barangay Tawantawan, Calinan District, Davao City on Thursday noon, February 17.
Major Ezra Balagtey, Civil Military Operations (CMO) officer of JTF Haribon said the soldiers were pursuing the NPA rebels who earlier attacked and burned a pineapple harvesting facility owned by Del Monte in Tawantawan when hit by the landmine.
Balagtey added that prior to the attack at the pineapple harvesting facility, the NPAs already harassed a military detachment in Malabog, Paquibato District at around 5:30 a.m. Thursday.
The soldiers were able to fight back against the attacking rebels and defended the detachment, the report added.
One NPA was killed during the attack.
Killed during the landmine attack were Corporal Michael Yadao and Private Virnel Damondon. Both belonged to the 3rd IB.
Of the 17 wounded troopers, only eight were identified, to include 2Lt. Harvey Kyl Escora; Cpl. Arnel Cuaresma; Cpl. Rey Danaytan; Cpl. Dominic Alegado; Pfc. Celso Neri; Pvt. Mike Barnuevo; Cpl. Jose Bautista Jr; and Pfc. Marion Rex Retutar.
Balagtey added that another armed confrontation took place in the afternoon of the same date in Lamanan, Calinan between the blocking force of the army and the fleeing rebels.
Another NPA rebels was also killed during the afternoon skirmish.
“We will see to it that the deaths (of our soldiers) will not be in vain. Their ultimate sacrifice will further motivate us to work for peace in this part of the country,” Gapay added in his statement.
He said that pursuit operations are still on-going to clear the area of possible improvised explosive devices (IEDs) planted by the NPAs that could kill or harm the civilians in the area.