Sunday, July 7, 2013

Phil. Army, PNP to clarify issues on encounters with NPAs in Sorsogon

Among the recovered CNN's paraphernalia during the Juban encounter.

By: Bennie A. Recebido

SORSOGON CITY, July 7 (PIA) – The Philippine Army together with the Philippine National Police (PNP) Regional Office V is set to hold a press conference tomorrow, July 8, 2013 at 9:00AM, at the Solcom Bldg., Camp Ola in Legazpi City.

In an information sent to the media, it says, the press conference intends to clarify some issues regarding the succeeding encounters between the 31st IB troops and the New people’s Army on July 4 and 6, 2013, including that of the harassment of Gubat Municipal Police marshalling the Bicol University-Gubat Campus Fun Run by unidentified lawless elements believed to be Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CNN) at Brgy. Buenavista, Gubat, Sorsogon, this morning, July 7, 2013.

It can be recalled that on July 4, 2013 at about 6:00 A.M., the 31st Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army under 2nd Lt. Alfie P. Ayo, while conducting combat operations encountered more or less 20 CNN belonging to the Komite sa Probinsya (KOMPROB) Sorsogon at Brgy. Upper Calmayon in Juban, Sorsogon. The 35-minute firefight resulted to eight (8) casualties on the side of the CNN including two women called by the military as “amazons” or women fighters. Over running the enemy encampment, three (3) M653, two (2) M16 with attached M203 grenade launcher, and one (1) Improvised Explosive Device (IED), including the bodies of eight casualties were recovered. No reported casualty on the government side.  

Early morning of July 6, 2013, another encounter between army troops and a supposed unit of the New People’s Army (NPA) took place around the vicinity of Brgy. Gabao, Irosin, Sorsogon that resulted in the death of one suspected rebel in Sorsogon whose identity is yet to determine.

However, the rebel group through Ka Samuel Guerrero, who identified himself as the spokesman of the Bagong Hukbong Bayan - Celso Minguez Command, claimed that the encounter in Juban town was instead a massacre and overkill when their comrades were slain by army troopers. They said so much firepower was poured by soldiers into the already dead victims, and that said behavior was a clear violation of internationally-accepted protocol on armed engagement, and on wounded casualties who were no longer capable of fighting back.

He also said that the 31st IB soldiers, under its Commanding Officer, Lt. Col. Beerjenson N. Aquino, allegedly confiscated and pocketed part of their organization funds amounting to some Php 300,000, and withheld it from public knowledge, aside from four (4) laptop computers, cellphones, and other items.

But Lt. Col. Aquino vehemently denied the said accusations.

He also said the clash in Upper Calmayon resulted in the biggest number of rebel casualties in the Bicol region, so far. “We are so positive that the incident will somehow paralyze our enemy’s operation in the region particularly that a top rank NPA official was one of the casualties,” he narrated.

Spokesperson of BHB-Celso Minguez Command Ka Samuel Guerrero, in his post in their blogsite, confirmed the death of National Democratic Front (NDF) Bicol spokesperson Ka Greg Banares, who’s real name is Frankie Joe Soriano, during the clash in Juban. He also identified the other NPA casualties as Ka Miloy (Pehing Hipa), Ka Nel (Christine Puche), Ka Gary (Ted Palacio), Ka Rey (David Llunar), Ka Nene (Romero Añonuevo), Ka Jay (William Villanueva, Jr), and Ka Kevin (Ailyn Calma). All casualties were Bicolanos.

Lt. Col.  Aquino, disclosed that the successful army operation was a result of civilian-military collaboration against NPAs believed to be behind the series of execution and extortion activities not only in Sorsogon but in Bicol region. He said the soldiers involved in the firefight responded to a distress call from the villagers complaining of the “prolonged extortion, abuses and threats” by the insurgents. “Residents in Juban are also fed up and are yearning so much to live a decent and peaceful life while at the same time enjoy the outgrowth of their sweat,” he said.

He also accounted that said actuation of the community folks is an attestation  that they are now more clued-up to the reality that the presence of armed groups in their respective communities is immaterial.

He however admitted that they are not overly triumphant of the bloody incident that happened, but “let this incident be the way and be an example to those who traverse the opposite path to surrender their arm, denounce communistic principle, return to the government and live a peaceful life. By doing so, they put an end to gruesome deeds of terrorism and of the NPAs and give real peace and lasting community progress a big chance”.

“If real love for our country reigns in our hearts, we have to be united and supportive to one another,” said Lt. Col. Aquino.

He likewise shared the hotline numbers where they can be reached for the benefit of those who, just like them, work to achieve lasting peace and development. The contact numbers are: GLOBE 09175581317 and SMART 09399075314.

903rd Infantry Brigade Commander Col. Joselito E. Kakilala in their TV program “Arangkada Bayanihan” calls on the public to convince and encourage their relatives, friends and those with communist ideology to give up their misguided principle and have a new life. “Tell them the reality that it is not their interest that they fight and give up their lives for, but the interest of some who would like to rule over using power and force,” he said.

He also addressed his call to the insurgents to surrender their weapons for their personal safety and that of the innocent civilians.

Col. Kakilala said they will also strengthen hot pursuit and clearing operations against the rebels to put a stop to possible recruitment of civilians especially the youth to join their movement.

Meanwhile, President Aquino’s administration is determined to end the insurgency before his term expires in 2016, though the government admitted that peace talks with the insurgents broke down past two months due to the repeated demands of NPAs.

Following the failure of the talks, the communist insurgents have launched more assaults resulting to worthless loss of lives. (BARecebido, PIA Sorsogon)

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