Alert up in Laguna after clashes
SAN PEDRO CITY—Police have placed its forces in three towns in Laguna province on alert after a series of clashes between government troops and communist rebels killed a soldier and wounded 12 others, two of them civilians.
Senior Insp. Romeo Manga, police chief of Luisiana town in Laguna, said tension remained high in the adjacent towns of Luisiana, Cavinti and Majayjay in Laguna and in Lucban town in Quezon province after rebels ambushed two military vehicles on Wednesday.
Manga said New People’s Army rebels set off a landmine along Cavinti-Luisiana road at 3 p.m.
He said Pfc. Gregorio Maico was killed in a seven-hour gun battle that broke out at noon between government troops and NPA rebels on the border of Laguna and Quezon provinces.
Wounded in the clash were Police Officers 1 Bong Hemor, Romelio Lamiseria, Richard Lumaban and Philip Tayaba, and PO2 Aldrin Leonida, all members of Quezon Provincial Police Public Safety Company; Sgts. Marvin Bagaboro, Zaldy Lebantino, Teejay Antonio and Jeff Ray Gatlabayan of the Army’s 202nd Infantry Battalion; and Domingo Garcillas, a member of Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit.
Reports from the military and police did not name the wounded civilians.
Manga said they earlier received reports that the rebels were planning to take over the police station in Luisiana.
The clashes erupted three days after NPA rebels on Sunday destroyed two heavy equipment owned by a road contractor in Barangay Kalyaat in Lucban town.
On the same day, a band of suspected NPA rebels attacked the compound of another contractor in Majayjay town.
The NPA command operating in Southern Tagalog vowed to continue its attacks on government troops, private armies and armed security forces of businesses, which it described as “engaged in the destruction of the environment and livelihood of the people.”
In a statement, Jaime “Ka Diego” Padilla, spokesperson for the NPA’s Melito Glor Command, challenged President Duterte to scrap the military’s counterinsurgency program, “Oplan Kapayapaan,” for serving as an “instrument of war against the people.”
Padilla said their offensives were retaliation against the “continued military operations against the people and the revolutionary forces.”
Despite the recent attacks, Maj. Gen. Rhoderick Parayno, commander of the Army’s 2nd Infantry Division, said he was hopeful that peace talks between the government and communist rebels would bear fruit.
He said the government’s position was to always give peace a chance.
“This is anchored on the Filipino culture of being hopeful and on … giving trust, expecting that it will be replicated or paid back with the same trust,” Parayno said.
“Like any Filipino, I’m still hopeful that they (NPA) will get their senses back and realize the sincere efforts of the government to move forward and improve the lot of all Filipinos once peace is attained,” he said.
Parayno said the NPA attacks were meant to sow fear among the population and business owners.
“[The NPA will] only matter if they terrorize the people—it’s a way of getting back the sympathy of the people,” he said.
Padilla said the NPA supported the talks but opposed the “militarization” of the bureaucracy, referring to the appointments of former military officials in key positions in the government.
“This militarization will hinder the progress of the peace talks. Those hawks, military generals … are spoilers who will not allow peace to reign in the country,” he said.
The peace panels of the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines are holding the fifth round of talks from May 26 to June 2 in The Netherlands.
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