BAGUIO CITY—Eleven government soldiers and two residents of Ifugao were killed when suspected communist rebels ambushed the soldiers near the boundary of Gumhang and Binablayan villages in Tinoc town on Wednesday, police and military officials said.
Lieutenant General Anthony Alcantara, commander of the military’s Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom), said sniper fire killed the driver of a military truck ferrying members of the Philippine Army’s 86th Infantry Battalion, as it passed through Sitio (sub-village) Buhyo between 7 and 8 a.m. on its way back to camp.
Alcantara said the driver lost control of the truck, causing it to fall down a cliff. According to initial police reports, surviving soldiers engaged the rebels in battle, which left three more soldiers wounded.
Police said the two slain residents, who authorities have yet to identify, may have been caught in the crossfire.
Major General Rommel Gomez, commander of the 5th Infantry Division based in Gamu, Isabela, did not identify the fatalities, but said an Army captain and a female soldier were among those killed.
Ifugao Governor Eugene Balitang said the ambush took place in an isolated area in Gumhang village. The police ordered the evacuation of residents while government troops pursue suspected communist New People’s Army rebels.
Chief Superintendent Benjamin Magalong, Cordillera police director, said Ifugao police director Roger Bilibli has also ordered the setting up of roadblocks in Tinoc, Kiangan and Hungduan towns.
Gomez said the wounded soldiers were taken to the Ifugao Provincial Hospital in Lagawe town.
On Saturday, the military reported that six NPA rebels were killed in a clash in Natonin, Mt. Province.
But Simon Naogsan, spokesperson of the Cordillera Peoples Democratic Front (CPDF), denied that the NPA suffered casualties.
In a text message, Naogsan said: “The pronouncement of the [Armed Forces of the Philippines] that the NPA [had] incurred six casualties in an encounter in Sitio Tappo, Banawel in Natonin, is a lie. [The] truth is [there were] no casualties on both sides. No weapon was seized from the NPA; only a backpack.” Vincent Cabreza, Desiree Caluza and Villamor Visaya Jr., Inquirer Northern Luzon