Reds say ambushed troopers ‘armed, ready to fight’

CPP: AFP unit involved in May 2020 massacre in Sorsogon

The New People’s Army (NPA) and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) denied the two soldiers killed in an ambush in Camalig, Albay last February 20 were part of the search and retrieval operations for the victims of the plane crash on Mayon Volcano.

In a statement, Santos Binamera Command (NPA-Albay) spokesperson Florante Orobia said the two soldiers of the 31st Infantry Battallion of the Philippine Army (IBPA) were buying supplies at a market place around 7:20 AM when fired upon by its partisans.

Orobia said Private First Class (PFC) Mark June Esico and PFC John Dave Adcolin were also part of the security detail of an infrastructure project in the same town at the time of the incident.

The CPP said in a separate statement issued to journalists that the ambush was a legitimate military operation against government soldiers actively involved in counterinsurgency operations of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

“Military supply lines comprise an important aspect of war operations…Disrupting the AFP’s supply lines are among the tactics for waging guerrilla warfare,” CPP spokesperson Marco Valbuena said.

Earlier, Philippine Army 9th Infantry Division commander Maj. Gen. Adonis Bajao claimed the two soldiers were assigned to extend assistance to the search and retrieval operations of the four victims of a plane crash on Mayon Volcano.

Bajao added that the ambush was in retaliation to his division’s successes against the NPA in the Bicol region.

The CPP however said the soldiers were armed, ready to engage in battle when ambushed, and a .45 caliber pistol was in fact taken from them.

“The claim of the 9th ID that the troops were preparing for search and rescue operations over a missing Cessna plane is a sorry PR attempt to gloss over the brutal counterinsurgency record of the 31st IB, in the hope of gaining public sympathy,” Valbuena said.

The CPP spokesperson said the two soldiers’ unit is responsible for scores of human rights violations, including the May 8, 2020 massacre of five farmer in Bulan, Sorsogon.

He added the 31st IBPA was also involved in other cases of killings, torture, illegal arrests and detention, threats and harassments of farming communities in Sorsogon and Camarines Sur provinces.

“The partisan operations of the NPA in Albay point to the fact that armed guerrilla operations in Bicol continue to expand. It shows the ability of the NPA to deploy teams anywhere in order to strike at enemy military targets,” Valbuena said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)