MANILA, Philippines — Members of the New People’s Army ambushed nearly 100 unarmed police trainees in Mt. Province before dawn Friday, killing one of them and wounding nine others.
Senior Superintendent Oliver Alilis Enmodias, chief of the Cordillera police’s regional operations unit, said the trainees, including about 70 women, were jogging at around 5:45 a.m. when attacked by some 20 suspected rebels in Sitio (sub-village) Kabunagan, Tadian, Mt. Province.
Senior Superintendent Reuben Theodore Sindac, PNP-PIO, identified the lone fatality as Police Officer 1 Denver Balabag.
Enmodias said the group of trainees were technically “unarmed” since the guns they were carrying weren’t loaded with bullets.
“May dala silang mga baril pero walang bala kasi ginagamit lang nila yon na pampabigat, or weight, para sa training nila (They were carrying guns but these were not loaded and were only being used as some sort of additional weight as part of their training),” he said.
But Enmodias said that the group had a team of 10 security escorts who were the ones who exchanged gunfire with the rebels.
He said the rebels were “positioned” in an elevated area in the mountains when they opened fire at the trainees some three kilometers away from the police camp.
Enmodias identified the wounded trainees as Inspector Melenium Bantas, PO1 Alex Dulnuan, PO1 Pawas Dakelan, PO1 Junelle Ngalawen, PO1 Jasmin Salve, PO1 Mitchell Maludon, PO1 Robin Benito, PO1 Jefferson Sarri, and PO1 Everson Wagis
“We condemn this attack because the trainees were unarmed and in fact were wearing athletic uniforms,” he said.
“For many years, we have had no ambushes in this area. The area is secured by the army and our patrols and we were near the town center so we did not expect this attack,” regional police spokesman Davy Limmong told Agence France Presse.
The attack comes soon after NPA fighters kidnapped five unarmed soldiers in the southern island of Mindanao on June 18 and killed eight unarmed police commandoes in the main island of Luzon in late May.
They also killed five timber plantation workers in a raid in the south on June 18.
National police spokesman Reuben Sindac said guerrillas have been resorting to strikes against unarmed targets.
“The NPA do not distinguish between combatant or non-combatant. They have carried out similar hostilities against medical missions and civic action personnel,” he said in a statement.
The NPA has been waging a 44-year Maoist armed campaign that has claimed at least 30,000 lives. The military estimates the guerrillas’ ranks at about 4,000 fighters.
The government of President Benigno Aquino had opened peace talks aimed at ending the communist insurgency before his term expires in 2016 but the negotiations collapsed allegedly over communist demands.
The chief government negotiator with the communists resigned earlier this month, citing his frustration with the stalled talks. With AFP report