4 rebels, 2 soldiers killed, 3 hurt in Ifugao encounter

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ASIPULO, Ifugao – Four members of the New Peoples Army (NPA) and two government troopers were killed while three soldiers were wounded during a 4-hour gun battle between government forces and communist rebels at barangay Camandag here Tuesday, a senior military official said here.

Col. Eddie Pilapil, commanding officer of the 54th Infantry Battalion, identified the fatalities on the government side as PFc. James Inale and PFC. Mark Anthony Pacdo while those injured were named as 1Lt. Ronald Carame, Pfc. Jehn Real Discaya and Pfc. Raffy Anongos.

He said one of the fatalities in the enemy side was named as Joel Bognihon, a resident of barangay Camandag, here, whose body was retrieved by his relatives while the three other fatalities still remain unidentified.

“Our troops are having a difficulty of reaching the area because of the steep and mountainous terrain that is why we are utilizing some of the military’s air assets to conduct hot pursuit operation against the fleeing rebels,” Pilapil told the Manila Standard.

Pilapil disclosed government forces were performing humanitarian duties in the area, particularly assisting the community people in the repair and building of public structures and the completion of waterworks projects, when at least 50 heavily armed men belonging to the Sangay ng Propagandang Paltoon of the NPA operating in Ifugao led by Gilbeys Busal alais Ka Sayap or Ka Koy engaged the military to a running gun battle.

He added government forces were able to recover from the encounter site 38 back packs containing personal belongings and medical supplies as well as other subversive documents belonging to the rebels.

“It is unfortunate that communist rebels from lowland communities are trying their luck to revive the communist movement in the Cordillera which already abandoned their support to the rebel movement,” Pilapil stressed.

Pilapil predicted a good number of rebels might have been wounded or have died as a result of the encounter because of the blatant blood stains along the escape route of the rebels.

He ordered government forces manning the different detachments in his area of jurisdiction to be always on alert because communist rebels will try their luck to perform atrocities in order to gain attention from the people of the region so that they will again bestow their trust on them as their protectors.

“Cordillerans are peace-loving people as evidenced by their turning their backs on the communist movement over the past several years. We must continue to jointly work together in driving the rebels away from the region and sustain peace and order initiatives,” Pilapil said.

Gov. Dennis Habawel condemned the latest broad daylight encounter between government forces and communist rebels in his province which was earlier declared by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) as a NPA-free province that resulted to the downloading of internal security operations (ISO) to the provincial government.

“Ifugaos want peace and we do not want the presence of any armed group that continue to create trouble in our place which will definitely affect the sustainability of our tourism industry,” Habawel said.