A ranking official of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) in Bicol allegedly involved in the assassinations of former communist party leaders Romulo Kintanar and Filemon “Popoy” Lagman was among the rebels killed in a recent clash with the military in Sorsogon.
A ranking military source identified the NPA leader as Ramir Añonuevo, alias Ka Nene, a member of the national Special Operations Group (SOG).
Also killed in the operation led by the Philippine Army’s 31st Infantry Battalion on July 4 were Frankie Joe Soriano, alias Ka Greg Banares, the spokesperson of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDF)-Bicol, and his wife, Christine Puche, alias Ka Nel.
In a statement it issued on Saturday, the CPP identified Añonuevo as a fatality but made no mention of his being a member of the SOG.
The CPP identified the other dead rebels as Ted Palacio, alias Ka Gary; Pehing Hipa, alias Ka Miloy; David Llunar, alias Ka Rey; William Villanueva Jr., alias Ka Jay, and Ailyn Calma, alias Ka Kevin.
According to the CPP, they were members of the NDF information group in Bicol, with one of them a member of an NPA security detail.
The CPP promised to avenge their deaths, according to an Agence France-Presse report.
“The CPP and all revolutionary forces vow to exact justice and punish the perpetrators of this massacre. It calls on all units of the NPA to carry out more tactical offensives … in Sorsogon and the Bicol region,” it added.
The military previously said the eight were killed when villagers, tired of guerrilla threats, tipped off the soldiers to the presence of the rebels.
The CPP statement, however, said that Banares and two of his aides were killed after being captured unarmed.
Military spokesperson Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala denied the allegation, calling it an attempt to discredit the government forces.
“They were all armed and they fought back. There was a 35 minute exchange of fire,” he said.
“He [Banares] was influential in their propaganda. He was key in their recruitment of those with legitimate problems in the war of the CPP against the government.”
Banares had been one of the more visible guerrilla figures, frequently issuing statements and even posting on YouTube.
“Practically the top echelon of the CPP-NDF-NPA in Bicol was wiped out in that encounter,” the military source told reporters in Manila on Saturday.
The source requested anonymity, citing security reasons.
According to the source, Añonuevo was present both when Lagman was waylaid on the steps of the Ang Bahay ng Alumni on the University of the Philippines (UP) campus in Diliman, Quezon City, in 2001 and when Kintanar was shot inside a Japanese restaurant at the Quezon Memorial Circle in 2003.
At the time of their killing, Lagman and Kintanar had severed their ties with the communist party. Kintanar, the former NPA chief, was working with the government.
Lagman, a known labor leader, headed the dreaded NPA urban hit squad, the Alex Boncayao Brigade (ABB), before his bitter falling out with the communist party.
The military source said he was unaware if criminal cases were filed against Añonuevo in the deaths of Kintanar and Lagman.
The encounter took place early last Thursday morning in the hinterlands of Upper Calmayon in Juban, Sorsogon.
The source said the military received a tip from civilians on the location of the NPA camp. The civilians, he said, apparently had had enough of the extortion activities of the insurgents.
The military operation began the night before when, in the darkness, the soldiers encircled the rebels’ camp.
“It actually began with very little gunfire because the military shouted at the rebels to surrender but, instead, they fought back,” the source said.
Two Philippine Air Force Huey helicopters arrived with more troops as the firefight escalated.
The NPA leaders tried to withdraw as their frontline guerrillas engaged the soldiers, only to bump into the troops covering another exit from the camp, the source said. With an AFP report