NPA insists 6 Army soldiers slain in Quezon clash
LUCENA CITY – Communist rebels insisted in a statement Sunday that at least six Army soldiers were killed during the encounter in Catanauan town in Quezon province on Oct. 17, but the military strongly denied the rebels’ claim and narrative of the incident.
“Hindi bababa sa anim na sundalo ang kaswalti ng 85th IBPA [Infantry Battalion Philippine Army] matapos silang bombahin ng isang pangkat ng NPA (Not less than six soldiers from 85th IBPA were the killed after they were bombed by a group of NPAs),” Ka Cleo del Mundo, spokesperson of the NPA’s Apolonio Mendoza Command, said in an emailed statement to the Inquirer.
According to Del Mundo, the government troopers were conducting patrol operations when they were attacked by Red-fighters on Oct. 17 Barangay (village) San Pablo Suha around 10:30 a.m.
She claimed that communist guerillas safely retreated after the attack.
However, the Army’s 2nd Infantry Division which has jurisdiction in Quezon vehemently refuted Del Mundo’s version of the encounter and insisted there was no casualty on the government side.
In a statement posted on their Facebook page, the 2nd ID said: “Sa nasabing sagupaan, walang kaswalte o sugatan sa tropa ng pamahalaan at pinaniniwalaan na maraming sugatan sa panig ng mga NPA ayon sa report ng mga kababayan natin na sawang-sawa na sa nasabing teroristang grupo (In the said encounter, there were no casualties or injury among the government troops and it is believed that there are many injured in the part of the NPA according to reports from residents who are already fed up with this terrorist group).”
The military clarified that before the encounter, villagers tipped off the patrolling soldiers about the presence of an NPA temporary camp in the area.
The military reiterated that after the brief encounter with around 30 Maoist-inspired guerillas, the soldiers recovered an M-16 rifle, documents, and personal belongings left behind by the retreating rebels.
Capt. Jayrald Ternio, head of the 2nd ID public affairs office, said they were still validating the information from villagers that a “minor” was the owner of the M1-16 rifle who was killed during the encounter.
The clash in Catanauan happened a month after Quezon provincial government declared the Communist Party of the Philippines and NPA, its military wing, as “persona non grata” in the province, once considered as a stronghold of Maoist-inspired guerrillas in Southern Tagalog. /je
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