BACOLOD CITY – Two intelligence operatives of the Philippine Army’s 15th Infantry Battalion (15IB) died in an ambush perpetrated by suspected communist-terrorist group members in Cauayan, Negros Occidental on Saturday afternoon.
The fatalities were identified as Pfc. Alaster Balboa, 37, of San Jose Road, Zone 2, Zamboanga City; and Cpl. Jhoem Meguillo, 32, of Barangay Malamote, Midsayap, North Cotabato.
The slain soldiers were given departure honors during a send-off ceremony held at the Bacolod-Silay Airport on Sunday morning.
Maj. Cenon Pancito III, public affairs chief of the 3rd Infantry Division (ID), condemned what he described as a “cowardly and deceptive act” of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA).
“Our soldiers were not in combat mode. They were in civilian attire onboard a motorcycle after being tasked to visit our Community Support Program (CSP) teams in the area,” Pancito said in a statement.
A report of the Cauayan Municipal Police Station said that Balboa and Meguillo were fired upon by some 30 fully-armed communist-terrorists at around 12:50 p.m. in Sitio Cambaga in Barangay Yao-yao after visiting the CSP teams in Sitio Lu-oy.
The soldiers’ standard issue .45 caliber pistols and four hand grenades were found missing during the retrieval operation, it added.
“The NPA terrorists have proven once again how coward they are in waging a fight against government troops. They cannot face us in battle thus, they resort to ambush of soldiers even in civilian clothes, a clear violation of human rights and accepted rules of engagement,” Pancito said.
He added that as the 3ID mourns every Spearhead trooper’s death, they vow to bring the communist-terrorists to justice.
According to the 15IB, which has headquarters in Barangay Tiling, Cauayan, Barangay Yao-yao is one of the areas in Negros Occidental where the NPA has thrived, and the Army’s CSP operations have lessened their influence in the community.
Col. Leonardo Peña, commander of 302nd Infantry Brigade, which covers southern Negros, also condemned the “barbaric act perpetrated by the CPP-NPA”, adding that the communist-terrorists are desperate to hamper the peace and progress brought by the presence of government troops in the communities.
“The senseless attack proves once again that these communist-terrorist groups are human rights violators,” he said.
Peña added that the slain soldiers’ ultimate sacrifice will “not be put in vain” as they will “legally seek justice and file appropriate criminal case against the culprits”.
Lt. Col. Erwin Cariño, commanding officer of 15IB, said the two soldiers risked their lives to protect and bring peace to the people of Negros.
“We honor the heroism and sacrifices of our fallen comrades and we will ensure that justice will be served,” he added.
The CPP-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines. (PNA)