Philippine Troops Kill 5 Communist Rebels in Bohol Clash

Nonoy Espina
Bacolod, Philippines
Philippine Troops Kill 5 Communist Rebels in Bohol Clash Members of the New People’s Army, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, gather in formation in the Sierra Madre Mountain Range east of Manila, July 30, 2017.

Government troops killed five suspected communist guerrillas in a gunfight in the central Philippines on Tuesday, the military said. 

A government soldier was shot during the early morning clash in Bohol province but was out of danger, officials said. The shootout occurred four days after Philippine police killed another three suspected fighters with the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the outlawed Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), near Manila.

Tuesday’s violence occurred when soldiers were responding to civilian reports about the presence of NPA members in a hilly area of Bilar town, said 1st Lt. Elma Grace Remonde-Abulencia, spokeswoman for the local infantry. 

“Our troops were fired upon by the armed men and it triggered a shootout. The gunfight lasted for more than an hour,” Remonde-Abulencia told reporters. “We were still waiting for the Scene of the Crime Operatives so that the five bodies can be brought to the mainland for possible identification.”

Last Friday, Rommel Riza, commander of the NPA’s Regional Special Operations Group, and two comrades were killed in a gunfight with police in Sta. Rosa City, just south of Manila. Police commandos were about to serve an arrest warrant but Riza’s group resisted and fired at the approaching lawmen, regional police commander Brig. Gen. Eliseo Cruz said.

National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said the government forces had stopped an attempt by Riza and the others to kill members of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), a government agency.

“One of their missions is to hit NTF-ELCAC talking heads. However, they were pre-empted. Our gratitude to our partners in NTF-ELCAC, including members of the armed forces and the police,” the state-run Philippine News Agency quoted Esperon, the task force’s vice chairman, as saying on May 21.

The news agency report stated that CPP founder Jose Maria Sison had recently ordered the NPA to deploy “so-called armed partisan units and special operation groups to cities and major town centers.” It also reported that five members of a “communist hit squad” tasked with assassinating top national and government leaders, along with police and military officers, were killed in January.

In a statement posted online over the weekend, Sison called Esperon’s claim “pure concoction.”

“National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon is a big liar in claiming that I have released an order to kill the so-called talking heads of NTF-ELCAC and other officials of the security sector of the Duterte regime,” Sison said.

President Rodrigo Duterte, a self-proclaimed former leftist, was once a student of Sison. Among Duterte’s first acts upon assuming office in 2016 was to open peace talks with the CPP, which has been waging a guerrilla war since 1969. He later ended the talks after accusing the communist rebels of being insincere because they kept launching attacks amid the negotiations.

In March, Duterte ordered security forces to end the communist rebellion once and for all.

“I’ve told the military and the police that if they find themselves in an armed encounter with the communist rebels, kill them, make sure you really kill them and finish them off if they are alive,” he said at the time.

The strength of the NPA guerrilla force is estimated to be about 5,000 fighters divided among 80 fronts across the Philippine archipelago. 

Jeoffrey Maitem contributed to this report from Cotabato, Philippines.


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