LEGAZPI CITY – Three members of the New People’s Army (NPA) were killed while high-powered firearms were seized when government forces engaged rebels in a firefight in Barangay Anas, Masbate City on Tuesday.
In a report, Lt. Col. Steve dela Rosa, Masbate City Police Station chief, said while the joint operating team of security operatives was on its way to serve warrants of arrest issued by the Masbate Regional Trial Court (RTC) against communist terrorist group (CTG) members, it was fired upon by around 30 unidentified armed men.
The group of rebels was believed responsible for the deadly road explosion that killed two civilians in the city over the weekend.
“With the presence of imminent danger, the team fired back, hitting three members of the rebel group while no casualty has been reported on the government side in a firefight that lasted for 15 minutes,” dela Rosa said.
The government troops recovered three M16 and an M14 rifle, various war materiel, and terrorist propaganda materials from the clash site.
Meanwhile, Capt. John Paul Belleza, 9th Infantry Division (9ID) spokesperson, in an interview said two hours later, government troops recovered 12 more high-powered firearms hidden in a nipa hut at the border of Barangay Anas and Barangay Bolo, both in Masbate City, believed to be left behind by the fleeing terrorists.
Lt. Col. Siegfried Felipe Awichen, commander of the 2nd Infantry Battalion (2IB), attributed this successful operation to the Masbateños who, out of anger over CTG’s latest terror attack, tipped off the military of the rebels’ location.
Col. Aldwine Almase, commander of the 903rd Infantry Brigade, on the other hand, assured the public that the Army and police will not stop until all CTG members responsible for the killing of civilians are put behind bars.
“We will not allow these terrorists to continue killing innocent people and destroying the hopes and dreams of our youth. Our persistent operations will continue to make sure that those who participated in this crime will rot in prison,” Almase said.
Brig. Gen. Jonnel Estomo, Police Regional Office 5 (PRO5) director, in a statement, called on the CTG members to just go down the mountains and surrender.
He also thanked the civilians who provided information leading to the successful operations.
“Alam naming pagod na kayong magtago lalo na ngayong mas pinaigting at pinalawak pa namin ang aming ginagawang operasyon. Alalahanin ninyo ang inyong mga pamilya. Para sa kanila, sumuko na lamang kayo (We know that you are tired of hiding especially now that we have intensified operations. Remember your families, for them just return to the folds of the law),” he said, addressing the CTG members.
Estomo also said the operating team is still pursuing to arrest the fleeing rebels.
“This effort is part of the action being undertaken by the government to identify the identity of persons behind the explosion incident that transpired on Sunday which had killed innocent civilians particularly the FEU (Far Eastern University) football player, Keith Absalon,” he added.
Maj. Gen. Henry Robinson Jr., commander of the Joint Task Force (JTF) Bicolandia, warned the NPA members that they are doomed if they would continue to elude arrest and refuse to take responsibility for their crimes.
“We do not tolerate terrorism. Thus, we are giving these evildoers two options: to keep their lives or to die fighting against our troops who are scouring every nook and cranny of Masbate province just to find them. A bright future awaits the Absalons had it not been for this terrorist group’s wickedness. But we are confident that they will all face the consequences of their crimes, especially that the Masbateños who are expressing strong repulsion over the CTG’s inhuman acts and lawlessness are one with us in this fight,” Robinson said.
Last Sunday, FEU football player Keith Absalon and his cousin, Nolven, were cycling along a road in Masbate City when anti-personnel mine planted by the CTG exploded, resulting in their deaths.
The NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines. (PNA)