(The Philippine Star)
LA TRINIDAD, Benguet, Philippines – Five suspected New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas were killed in an encounter with government security forces in Lacub town in Abra yesterday morning.
The military said the firefight erupted when soldiers belonging to the Army’s 5th Infantry Division (ID) chanced upon a group of rebels in the village of Guinguinabang.
Major Emmanuel Garcia, chief of the Armed Forces first civil relations group, said among the fatalities was Arnold Jaramillo, allegedly the secretary general of the NPA’s local political committee.
The soldiers reportedly recovered eight firearms at the scene of the encounter.
Maj. Calixto Cadano Jr., spokesman for the Army’s 5th ID, said there were no casualties on the side of the government troops.
Maj. Gen. Benito de Leon, commander of the Army’s 5th ID, said his men were pursuing the rebels.
De Leon said the villagers tipped them off about the presence of a group of men in the area. He said the men were asking for food and money from the residents.
Lt. Col. Virgilio Noora, chief of the Army’s 41st Infantry Battalion, said NPA guerrillas had been collecting money and food from the villagers.
“The residents said the NPAs who are extorting from them were not from Abra, but from other areas,” Noora said in a statement.
There are about 4,000 NPA rebels in the country, based on the latest estimates of the military.
The figure has not changed significantly in the last few years despite claims by the military that the communist movement has weakened.