Spate of clashes reveal NPA remains strong
(UPDATED) A former radio reporter was among the four guerilla fighters killed in Binalbagan, Negros Occidental last July 6 in what the New People’s Army (NPA) said was a massacre, contrary to what the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) claimed was an encounter.
The NPA’s Apolinario Gatmaitan Command (NPA-AGC), its Negros Island Regional Operational Command, said that Nikka Dela Cruz and her three comrades were earlier captured by government troops but were subsequently “slaughtered.”
The four were ailing and their medical condition rendered them incapable to fight, NPA-AGC spokesperson Juanito Magbanua said in a July 8 statement.
“[F]ascist troops…slaughtered four ailing Red fighters in cold blood at Barangay Biao, Binalbagan, Negros Occidental and shamelessly paraded their bodies as casualties of the fake encounter concocted by the AFP’s top commanders as a cover-up for their war crime,” Magbanua said.
“It was a massacre,” he added.
The 94th Infantry Battallion of the Philippine Army said the four were part of a 14-member NPA team who died in a clash with soldiers and police officers at about nine o’clock in the morning in Sitio Amilis, Barangay Santol, Binalbagan.
Lt. Col. Van Donald Almonte, commander of the 94th Infantry Battalion (94IB), said the fatalities belonged to the NPA’s Central Negros 2, Komiteng Rehiyong-Negros Cebu Bohol Siquijor.
Aside from Dela Cruz, also identified as Ka (Comrade) Chai, the NPA said the three other victims were Roel “Ka Jack”Ladera, Alden “Ka Rocky” Rodriguez and Roel “Ka Caloy” Deguit.
‘Final militant red salute’
The NPA-AGC said their four fallen comrades were martyrs of the revolution who “surmounted all sacrifices and difficulties to arouse, organize and mobilize the people in the revolution and to fight for their interests and aspirations.”
The four came from different social backgrounds, Magbanua said.
Magbanua revealed that Dela Cruz, 26, was a former reporter of GMA Network’s Cebu City radio station dySS after graduating from the Catholic University of San Jose-Recoletos in the said city with a journalism degree.
A native of Medellin town in Cebu Province, Dela Cruz was the youngest among three siblings of a well-off middle class family whose mother is a medical doctor.
As a student, Dela Cruz was reportedly already active in the struggles of Cebu City’s urban poor, vendors and other people’s advocacies.
“She played a crucial role in the struggle of Carbon Market vendors against the privatization program of the Cebu City local government. After being hunted by [government] intelligence agencies, she went incognito and focused in revolutionary underground work among students and intellectual youths in 2017,” Magbanua said.
Dela Cruz became one of the leaders of her Communist Party of the Philippines unit who went to Negros to gain exposure to the Communists’ people’s war and decided to serve as a full time NPA fighter, Magbanua added.
Ladera, 30, was a NPA squad leader at the time of their death, Magbanua said.
He was a native of Himamaylan City and first experienced brutality in the hands of the military who they were assaulted after winning a basketball game against soldiers, Magbanua said.
The NPA spokesperson added Ladera was active in the anti-mining campaign in Negros before joining the guerilla army in 2016.
Like Ladera, Rodriguez also suffered maltreatment from abusive local officials before enlisting in 2019. The native of Manjuyod, Negros Occidental also hailed from peasant family, the NPA said.
The oldest among the four victims, Deguit was also a victim of trumped-up charges by government prosecutors before joining the NPA. He was also from Himamaylan, Magbanua said.
“Their untimely demise in the hands of the fascists will only arouse more Negrosanons to the revolution as the AFP is further exposed as a terrorist cabal and protector of the ruling class,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Philippine National Police (PNP) announced the death of a police officer in an encounter with suspected members of the NPA in Samar province on Saturday morning, July 16.
Patrolman Mark Monge of the Eastern Visayas Regional Mobile Force Battalion in a clash with the NPA in the boundary of Barangay San Nicolas of San Jose de Buan town and Barangay Mabuhay of Gandara town in the said province.
PNP officer-in-charge Police Lieutenant General Vicente Danao Jr. on Monday condemned the incident, saying he wants to curse the rebels and wishes to ambush them himself.
Danao cautioned police officers to be extra careful when conducting operations in the field.
Seven soldiers were also wounded in a clash with the NPA in nearby Mapanas town in neighboring Northern Samar province last July 5 while three alleged NPA fighters were killed in another encounter last July 13, the 8th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army reported.
Both the AFP and the PNP repeatedly vowed that the NPA would have been decimated by this month as the Manila government transitions from former President Rodrigo Duterte to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
The clashes, however, reveal that the NPA and its 53-year old insurgency remain strong in various parts of the country. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)