Soldiers, rebels clash in Davao del Sur; 400 villagers flee
MAGSAYSAY, Davao del Sur, Philippines — Sixty-three families from a remote village in Davao del Sur fled their homes as the military launched air and ground strikes against communist rebels in the province’s borders with North Cotabato province on Wednesday.
Jessie Pandian, 56, said he had to drag his wife and their three children (aged 6 months, 5 years and 7 years) as they ran for 3 kilometers to seek safety at a gym in the village of Upper Bala. They joined about 400 people, including children, who left the village.
Elizar Laoc, Upper Bala village chief, said the residents heard the sound of cannon fire early Wednesday.
Rosemarie Sal, 34, said she was awakened by an explosion and thought she was just dreaming. But when another blast followed, she took her 2-month-old child and fled to the barangay center.
Lt. Col. Rhojun Rosales, 39th Infantry Battalion (IB) commander, told the Inquirer that the military launched the air assault in Sitio Bagong Silang here after troops patrolling the area clashed with at least 50 members of the New People’s Army (NPA) at 3 a.m. Wednesday.
No casualty was reported on the government side.
Rosales said some residents in Bagong Silang had reported the presence of armed men, prompting soldiers to patrol the community. He said members of the scout platoon eventually encountered armed men who he believed belonged to Committee Front 72 of the NPA led by Eusenio Cranzo, alias Commander Brix.
Police Capt. Jeffmar Tercero, Magsaysay town police chief, said the municipal social welfare and development office had attended to the needs of evacuees. —Orlando Dinoy
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