by: Bennie A. Recebido
SORSOGON CITY, September 25 (PIA) - Eighty one (81) families of Upper Maalo in Juban town, Sorsogon who evacuated on Sunday evening, mostly coco farmers, have returned to their homes as threat of helicopter gunfire and encounter between government troops and armed rebels cool down.
This was the information disclosed by Juban Information Officer Ms. Reline Arellano yesterday (Tuesday) saying that late evening of Sunday, there were already residents who one by one returned to their homes to attend to their livelihoods, and on Tuesday, all evacuees went back to their respectives residences.
Said residents were forced to leave their homes out of fear they might get harmed following an encounter and helicopter strafing on Sunday, September 22.
In a press release issued yesterday by 903rd Infantry Brigade, Philippine Army, one platoon reinforced of 31st Infantry Battalion, 9th Infantry Division of Philippine Army led by 1Lt Rory Esico and 2Lt Dondon Canilang encountered more or less forty (40) heavily armed members of the New People’s Army believed to be composite members of Provincial Yunit Guerilla (PYG) under Ka Cindy, Komiteng Probinsya (KOMPROB) Sorsogon under Andres Hubilla aka Ka Magno and Bicol Regional Party Committee (BRPC) forces at about 3:00 pm on Sunday at Bintacan Complex at the boundaries of Barangays Maalo and Bulala in Juban town, Sorsogon.
Col Joselito E. Kakilala, Commander of 903rd Infantry Brigade exercising operational control over 31IB said that the soldiers were deployed in the area for combat operations in response to an anonymous complaint from a concerned civilian of the presence of armed NPA rebels reportedly conducting violent activities. Relatedly, based on intelligence reports gathered, the BRPC is also believed to conduct Plenum in the said area.
Col Kakilala narrated that when the troops arrived in the area, they were met with heavy volume of fires from the enemy that eventually broke into a firefight that lasted for almost one (1) hour, after which the enemy withdrew towards north and east directions.
He further stated that during the pursuit operations, the fleeing New People's Army (NPA) rebels employed sniper fires against the government troops resulting to the exchange of fires between two opposing forces.
Consequently, due to the continued sniping from the NPA, two (2) UH-1H Helicopters were deployed to provide Close Air Support (CAS) to government troops. The conduct of air support which was aimed to precisely target the assessed enemy position was carried out through Forward Observer (FO) support from ground troops and with strict adherence to the Rules of Engagement (ROE) thereby inflicting no collateral damage to innocent lives or their properties in the area of operation.
Government troops recovered five (5) Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), three (3) Motorola GP 2000 handheld radios, one (1) generator set, ninety rounds ammunitions for Caliber 60 Light Machine Gun, medical paraphernalia, personal belongings and voluminous subversive documents.
Col Kakilala also emphasized that the recovery of IEDs from the rebels which they rampantly employ in their tactical offensives against government troops is a clear manifestation of the NPAs blatant disregard and violation of the Comprehensive Agreement for the Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) which strictly prohibits the use of such deadly war materials, for which theCommunist Party of the Philippines (CPP) is one of the signatories.
He further said that the government will not stop going after the lawless NPA rebels who are continuously trying to sow fear and terror to the local populace through conduct of violent activities such as killing innocent civilians who refused to give in to their extortion demands as well as the merciless liquidation of retired Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP) personnel and ordinary civilians who are suspected to be government assets.
According to him, their records show that as of February 2012 a total of twelve (12) innocent civilians were victims of NPA liquidations in Sorsogon.
Fortunately, the government forces suffered no casualty during the clash while the NPA’s are believed to suffer undetermined number of casualties as indicated by traces of bloodstains along their route of withdrawal.
Meanwhile, evacuees sought refuge from their respective friends and relatives while the Local Government of Juban through the Municipal Social Welfare and Development Office extended assistance in the form of foodstuff, blanket and medicines. Mayor Antonio Alindogan also extended personal assistance to the evacuees by giving additional food stuff. (BARecebido, PIA-5/Sorsogon)