Soldiers, suspected communist rebels clash off Samar coast
MANILA, Philippines — A boat boarded by suspected communist rebels exploded in the waters off Catbalogan City, the provincial capital of Samar, following a 20-minute gun battle with government troops.
There were reports that among those on board were rebel leaders Benito and Wilma Tiamzon. But Maj. Gen. Edgardo de Leon, commander of the Army’s 8th Infantry Division (ID) based in Catbalogan, said this could not be confirmed.
Benito Tiamzon is the chair of the Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front (CPP-NDF), while his wife, Wilma, is the group’s secretary general. The military also describes Benito as the “top New People’s Army (NPA) leader,” referring to the armed wing of the communist movement.
Capt. Ryan Layug, spokesperson for the 8th ID, said soldiers sailed around the island village of Canhawan Guti, some 12.5 kilometers off the coast of Catbalogan, after receiving reports that an armed group was spotted on board a motorized boat.
According to De Leon, some 10 suspected rebels were on that boat, transporting “boxes.”
Layug said one of the soldiers, using a megaphone, instructed the passengers to submit themselves for inspection.
But they fired at the soldiers and in the ensuing clash, the boat exploded.
“We suspect they brought explosives with them,” De Leon said.
“Right at this point, we cannot ascertain if there were NPA casualties,” he added, as no bodies had been recovered as of Monday night.
—WITH A REPORT FROM INQUIRER RESEARCH
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.