Armed encounters between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the communist New People’s Army showed no signs of slackening as government troops pressed pursuit operations of rebels that attacked and burned facilities of Lapanday Foods Corporation late last month in Davao City and Panabo City.
Captain Rhyan Batchar, chief information officer of 10th Infantry (Agila) Division, said a series of skirmishes took place from May 6 to 11 resulting in the killing of two NPA members, a soldier and the wounding of nine government troopers.
The armed confrontations took place in Davao City, Davao del Sur and Davao Occidental, Batchar reported.
Government troopers also recovered a calibre .38 revolver, an M14 rifle and various war materials from the rebels.
The army believes more NPA rebels were wounded during the gun battles based on reports of civilians who saw fleeing rebels with their wounded comrades.
“One soldier was killed in action while nine others were wounded and already evacuated to hospitals in Davao City during the May 10 encounter between the 3rd Infantry Battalion troopers and NPA rebels belonging to Pulang Bagani Company (PBC) 1 in Barangay Dalagdag, Calinan District, Davao City,” Batchar said.
He added that elements of 3rd IB engaged the NPA rebels nine times between May 6 to May 10, while another army unit, the 73rd Infantry Battalion, encountered the rebels three times in May 7, 9 and 11.
“Troops from 3rd IB engaged PBC 1 of the NPA six times in Barangay Dominga, Calinan District, Davao City from May 6 to 9. Another group of 3rd IB soldiers engaged the same NPA group twice in Barangay Sumimao, Calinan District on May 9 where an NPA was killed and a calibre .38 pistol was recovered,” Batchar said.
The NPA killed was later identified as Jojo Dagahoya, a member of PBC1 and a resident of Sitio Balinanao, Barangay Fatima, Paquibato District, Davao City.
Another group of soldiers engaged the fleeing NPAs at around 1 a.m. on May 10 in Barangay Dalagdag in Paquibato which resulted to the killing of a soldier and the wounding of nine others.
Another NPA was also killed during that early morning encounter that was later identified as EliazarTemplado alias Chin, a political instructor of PBC1 from and a resident Calinan Proper, Davao City.
Batchar said the names of the casualties on the side of the government troopers were temporarily withheld pending the notification of their family members.
He said that an encounter between 73rd IB and NPAs also took place last May 7 in Sitio Kidalagan, Barangay Danwata, Malita, Davao Occidental.
Continuing pursuit operations also resulted to another encounter on May 9 in the same barangay, Batchar added.
Last May 11, 73rd IB trooper again encountered around 20 NPA rebels in Sitio Lawisa, Barangay Sibulan, Santa Cruz, Davao del Sur.
Government troopers were able to recover one M14 rifle at the encounter site, Batchar said.
He said no soldier was hurt on the series of armed clashes between 73rd IB and the NPAs.
“Strengthened security measures together with the police are being undertaken to block the fleeing rebels from escaping the area,” Batchar said.
In the same press statement, 10th ID and concurrent Joint Task Force Haribon commander Major General Rafael Valencia expressed grief over the death of the soldier.
Valencia also prayed for the fast recovery of the wounded soldiers.
“We shall relentlessly pursue these anti-peace and anti-development nuisance propaganda armies of the communists who only make the lives of the Filipinos miserable,” Valencia said.
Evacuation, harassment, bombing reported
Meanwhile, the human rights group Karapatan in Southern Mindanao reported of evacuation of civilians that was triggered by the series of military operations and encounters in Barangay Dominga, Calinan, Davao City.
Karapatan also reported of harassments to civilians allegedly perpetrated by government troopers in the area.
The report said that on the first week of May 2017, elements from the 3rd IB and Task Force Harribon were seen conducting foot patrol in the communities of Barangay Dominga.
Civilians reported that their community in Dominga were already heavily militarized, Karapatan said.
Last May 6, civilians from Barangay Dominga were forced to leave their abodes when an encounter between the 3rd IB, Task Force Haribon and NPAs erupted, the group said.
“Kagawad Dennis Epal together with other residents of Sitio Cabagtukan, Barangay Dominga, evacuated to Barangay Dacudao,” Karapatan said, adding that the civilians, while on their way to evacuate, were barred by the soldiers while Kagawad Epal was interrogated and accused of being member of the NPA.
“He asserted that he is not a member of NPA but a civilian, but the military did not believe him and threatened him that they will take away all his nails. After the encounter the residents were prevented to go out from their barangay and were monitored by the military,” Karapatan added.
Last May 9, at around 3:00 in the afternoon, a strafing incident happened in Barangay Dominga, particularly at the house of Rodolfo Dagahuya, Jr., farmer, 33 years old.
Karapatan said Dagahuya’s dead body was later found by his neighbor.
“The residents suspected that the strafing incident was done by the 3rd IB Task Force Harribon. The cadaver was claimed by the disaster response team. The family has no idea as to where the cadaver was brought,” Karapatan reported.
On May 10, at around 7:00 in the morning, Karapatan said that the military dropped six bombs in the community that brought too much fear to the residents.
“They (military) illegally searched the houses of the residents and 0ne (1) civilian, certain Lascuña from Sitio Kibaton, was interrogated and mauled by the military and afterwards his face was plunked on a mud,” Karapatan added.