High-profile communist leader killed in central Philippine clash

Froilan Gallardo and Richel V. Umel
Cagayan de Oro, Philippines
High-profile communist leader killed in central Philippine clash Street dwellers watch at masked members of the communist New People's Army march during a protest in Manila, Nov. 14, 2015.
[Czar Dancel/Reuters]

A high-profile leader of the communist New People’s Army (NPA) was killed in a clash with army troops in the central Philippine island of Negros earlier this week, the military announced Tuesday.

The dead insurgent, Romeo Nanta, served as commanding officer of the Regional Operational Command of the Komiteng Rehiyon-Negros and as spokesman of the Apolinario Gatmaitan Command of the NPA, according to military officials.

The army’s 94th Infantry Battalion said in a report that Nanta, more popularly known as Juanito Magbanua, was killed Monday when troops clashed with 10 rebels he led in Himamaylan City, Negros Occidental province. The encounter was the fifth between soldiers and Nanta’s group since Oct. 6.

“His death will surely bring a domino effect on the leadership, terroristic operations and plans of the communist terrorists in Negros,” said Maj. Gen. Benedict Arevalo, the local infantry division commander, in a statement.

“Demoralization within the ranks of the NPA under Nanta’s command is also expected. They are now on the brink of downfall following the surrender and death of their members and leaders in Negros.”

Arevalo called on other NPA guerrillas to abandon their posts and surrender or continue to engage against troops and die.

The NPA is the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), which has been waging one of Asia’s longest-running insurgencies that began in 1969.

Brig. Gen. Inocencio Pasaporte, commander of the 303rd Brigade, said Nanta was responsible for many atrocities on the island, including the killings of soldiers, police and civilians.

Pasaporte said Nanta was arrested in 2011 on murder, robbery and damage to property charges, but was released on bail and returned to the NPA where he committed more crimes.

Pasaporte said the death of Nanta, the “most wanted NPA terrorist” on Negros Island, was a “big blow” to the NPA.

“His death would clearly serve as a reminder that no one can escape the long arm of the law,” said Pasaporte.

The Philippines has failed to crush the communist insurgency for a half century and peace talks have faltered time and again.

The government of President Rodrigo Duterte ended peace talks in 2017 after accusing CPP rebels of carrying out deadly attacks despite the negotiations. 

In February, Manila officially designated 16 left-leaning groups as “underground organizations of CPP and accused them of funneling money to insurgents."


Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.