Security forces killed three suspected communist insurgents and captured three others Thursday when guerrillas raided a municipal police station in the central Philippines on the eve of the rebel movements’ 50th anniversary.
Two police officers were wounded when officers manning the police station in Victoria township in Northern Samar province fought back and foiled the raid, Maj. Patrick Martinez said.
Four civilians were wounded when the guerrillas opened fire at a car, which they apparently thought carried police reinforcements, officials said.
“The three rebels who were captured were trying to recover their dead comrades,” Martinez said, adding that the firefight occurred before dawn Thursday and lasted for about two hours.
Four high-powered firearms, including a machine gun, were recovered from the slain guerrillas.
Brig. Gen. Ramil Bitong, commander of the 803rd Infantry Brigade, said the successful defense of the police station was a result of “contingency planning” that began last year to thwart major attacks anticipated to occur on or before the New People’s Army (NPA) marks its 50th founding anniversary on Friday.
Troops and members of the Northern Samar Provincial Police Office have launched hot-pursuit operations against the other rebels involved in the raid, Bitong said.
The NPA is the armed wing of the underground Communist Party of the Philippines, which has been waging one of Asia’s longest-running insurgencies since 1969. Peace talks with the CPP-NPA were suspended in 2017, barely a year after it began after President Rodrigo Duterte accused the gunmen of continuing the attacks despite his government’s efforts.
Backdoor negotiations were carried out in an attempt to start the talks, but Duterte last week announced a “permanent termination” of the peace process with the rebels until his term ends in 2022.
Last year, the government accused the CPP-NPA of plotting with opposition politicians to unseat Duterte. The plot was to have been carried out in November, but never occurred because it was uncovered, military officials said. Rebel leaders denied the allegations.
In Manila, Col. Noel Detoyato, the military’s public affairs chief, said the NPA’s half-century rebellion “is an utter failure” that only resulted to thousands of lives lost and many properties destroyed over the years.
“They continuously hinder peace and development in some areas of our country. The leaders, members, and supporters of the communist terrorist group should be ashamed of themselves for bringing years of hardships and misery to our people,” Detoyato said in a statement.
He called on the CPP-NPA guerrillas to abandon their struggle, and rejoin the society.
But in a statement from the Netherlands, self-exiled communist party leader Jose Maria Sison said Duterte’s withdrawal from the peace talks was nothing new and that it was “merely driving more nails into the coffin of the peace negotiations.”
He accused Duterte of wanting “localized peace negotiations” to be allegedly staged and controlled by the military, which he said was unacceptable.
The negotiations “can be resurrected in the future by a new administration,” Sison said.
Nonoy Espina in Bacolod city and Richel V. Umel in Iligan City contributed to this report.