BACOLOD CITY — Two soldiers died while eight others were injured during a clash between government troops and suspected New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in the southern Negros city of Kabankalan Saturday morning.
Captain Ruel Llanes, civil-military operations officer of the Army’s 303rd Infantry Brigade based in Negros Occidental, on Saturday night identified the fatatilies as Sergeant Sandy Arevalo and Private First Class (PFC) Vicente Marcon.
Injured were Sergeant Niño Nabaunag, PFC Angelito Bariga, PFC Michael Besana, PFC Voltair Catamin, PFC Kenneth Cerbo, Private John Daryle Delgado, Private Ryan Las Piñas, and Private Joven Taghap.
According to a report from the Negros Occidental Police Office, the soldiers were conducting patrol and combat clearing operation in Sitio Atubon, Barangay Tan-awan ahead of Monday’s barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections when they encountered about 60 rebels around 5:30 a.m..
The firefight lasted for almost an hour. The rebels are believed to belong to the upper Grader Platoon of the NPA’s Central Negros Front Komite Rehiyonal-Negros.
Llanes said the wounded troops are already in stable condition.
They were treated at Mother of Holy Mercy Hospital and Lorenzo D. Zayco District Hospital in Kabankalan City.
He noted that the rebels knew the terrain in Sitio Atubon well since they have been operating in the area for some time now, putting the soldiers at a disadvantage.
Llanes said the same group of rebels could have been behind the torching of the heavy equipment and bunkhouse in the dam project of National Irrigation Administration (NIA) in Sitio Badian, also in Barangay Tan-awan on May 7.
Meanwhile, the Negros Occidental police said personnel of Kabankalan City Police Station with troops from the Special Action Force-6 set up a checkpoint in the adjacent Sitio Overflow, Barangay Hilamonan after the encounter.
All barangays in the city have also been alerted while hospitals within the city and neighboring localities towns have been checked and warned for possible arrival of patients with gunshot wounds, the police added.
As of Saturday night, the police said the city government of Kabankalan has planned to evacuate the residents of Sitio Atubon and the neighboring sitios affected by the armed encounter to the Barangay Tan-awan covered court and gymnasium.
Senior Superintendent Rodolfo Castil, police provincial director, said quick reaction teams are ready to respond to possible threats and harassments from the rebels and private armed groups. Nanette Guadalquiver/PNA-northboundasia.com