Batangas: Fifteen alleged members of the communist New People’s Army (NPA) were killed while three others were wounded in two separate encounters with government troops in Nasugbu town on Tuesday night.
Batangas police director, Senior Supt. Alden Delvo, said joint elements of the 730th Combat Group of the Philippine Air Force, Batangas and Nasugbu police acted on a phone call reporting that armed men were seen at Sitio Pinamintasan in Barangay Aya.
Responding government troops, upon approaching the area, were fired upon by the rebels who were onboard a jeepney and a van at about 8:30 p.m.
Five rebels were killed on site while three were wounded in a 20-minute gunbattle. They were brought to the hospital where one expired and where the rest were declared dead.
Maj. Gen. Rhoderick Parayno, commander of the Army’s 2nd Infantry Division, said a casualty on the side of the rebels was added when a female communist fighter died when she was brought to a nearby hospital by government troops.
Parayno identified the rebel as Josephine Santiago Lapera alias Ella, 22, from Marikina City.
He said Lapera was the only slain communist rebel identified while the others remain under verification by the military.
Five soldiers were wounded but in stable condition at the hospital.
Meanwhile, in Sitio Batulao, Barangay Kaylaway, another encounter ensued between the communist rebels and government troops that resulted in the killing of nine NPA members.
Calabarzon police director, Chief Supt. Mao Aplasca, said in a media conference that the slain rebels were members of the Eduardo Dagle command, aged 18 to 25 years old, including five women.
The secretary of the NPA’s Guerilla Unit 3 and one platoon leader were among those killed in the clash.
Twelve long firearms were recovered from the encounter site and Aplasca believes there was a serious plan to conduct a tactical offensive against military and police establishments in the region.
“This encounter so far produced the biggest number of casualties on the side of the rebels and is a big blow to the NPA. We have been tracking their movements for two months and we can expect another encounter soon if they don’t vacate Calabarzon,” Aplasca said, referring to the provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon that constitute Region 4-A.
Brigadier General Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos Jr., commander of the 202nd Infantry Brigade, said the leadership vacuum brought about by the death of the NPA rebels signals the end of the communist insurgency in Batangas.
He added that two wounded terrorists were given first aid by soldiers and immediately evacuated to the nearest hospital for medical treatment.
“We put premium to the lives of our fellow Filipinos that is why when they lost their ability to fight, we extended a helping hand to save them and give them the chance to defend themselves before the court of law as they answer to their evil deeds” Burgos said.
Even before President Rodrigo Duterte’s pronouncement that the NPA will be classified as a terrorist group, security forces in the region intensified their counter-insurgency operations to put an end to the rebels’ alleged extortion activities and preempt any hostile actions that can hamper the booming economic potentials in Calabarzon.
Authorities said the casualties are believed to be remnants of the NPA unit that the government forces fought in Barangay Utod, also in Nasugbu, on November 20.
WITH ROSELLE R. AQUINO and DEMPSEY REYES
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