The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) hailed as “partial justice” the New People’s Army’s (NPA) ambush of a Philippine Army (PA) unit it said was involved in the massacre of nine Tumandok in Panay Island late last year.
Five soldiers of the 61st Infantry Battalion of the PA were reportedly killed in an ambush by Mt. Napulak Command of the NPA in Sitio Anoy, Barangay Cabalaunan, Miag-ao, Iloilo on May 15 at 10 o’clock AM.
“This is in partial fulfillment of the vow to exact justice for the Tumandok people and other victims of the crimes perpetrated by the 61st IB and other units of the AFP,” CPP chief information officer Marco Valbuena said in a statement.
The CPP earlier called on the NPA to avenge the victims of the massacre that killed nine Tumandok tribes people and arrested several others.
The victims of the Tumandok Massacre opposed the Jalaur Mega Dam Project that threatens to inundate vast areas of their ancestral domain.
“It is also a retribution for the killing of peasant leader John Farochilin killed last year by elements of the 61st IB in the same area,” Valbuena added.
The CPP spokesperson said five government troopers were killed in the ambush while five others were wounded.
Valbuena said among the initially wounded was a certain Staff Sgt. Antot who later on died in a local hospital.
In an earlier announcement, however, NPA Panay Regional Operation Command spokesperson Julio Montana said as the number of government troopers killed may be as many as eight.
“Five were killed in the actual firefight while three were wounded who we later learned died in the hospital. The casualties were taken by two helicopters after reinforcements have cleared the area,” Montana said.
“On the part of the NPA, its fighters safely retreated a few minutes after the firefight began,” he added.
PA denies number of casualties
In a local radio interview, however, PA 3rd Infantry Division spokesperson Maj. Cenon Pancito denied the NPA report and said only one government soldier was wounded in what he claimed was an “encounter”.
Capt. Ferdinand De Vera, 61st IB Civil Military Operations Officer, in a press release said the soldier was taken to a hospital in Iloilo city and is in stable condition.
He said the elements of the 61IB responded to the information given by the residents on the presence of “suspicious individuals.”
Col. Joel Benedict Batara, 61st IB commander also denied the incident was an ambush but an encounter that happened when his troops responded to information of NPA presence in the area.
The 61st IBPA is headquartered at Miag-Ao.
Valbuena however chided Batara for denying the PA casualties.
“What kind of arrogant officer is he who cannot give recognition to men who died under his command, Valbuena asked.
The CPP spokesperson said Miag-ao residents posted on their social media accounts that the military was flying helicopters in the area after the firefight, likely to secretly ferry casualties away. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)