(UPDATED) A four-month-old baby girl on board a sports utility vehicle with seven of her kin died after she was hit by stray bullets when the police vehicle they were coincidentally following was ambushed by New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in the village of Tikalaan, Talakag town, Bukidnon, on Thursday, November 9.
Authorities identified the baby girl as Machorao Malysha of Kili-Kili, Wao town in Lanao del Sur. A policeman, identified as Senior Police Officer 3 (SPO3) Arnel Carillo, was also killed in the ambush.
Police said Malysha sustained a lone gunshot wound on her forehead while others sustained gunshot wounds on the different parts of their bodies.
Police investigators said the ambush also wounded civilians onboard the Toyota Fortuner. They were identified as Sittie Ali, 53; and Ali Aminsalam, 37, both residents of Kili-kili, Wao town. Civilian, Alexander Maniscan was also wounded.
Wounded policemen onboard the police car were identified as Bumbaran town police chief Joven Acuista, Senior Police Officer 1 (SPO1) Pacifico Cabudoy, and PO1 Nathaniel Ibal.
The wounded police personnel were rushed to different hospitals in Bukidnon while the injured civilians were brought to the Northern Mindanao Medical Center (NMMC).
Superintendent Lemuel Gonda, spokesperson of the Police Regional Office (PRO)-Northern Mindanao, said the Toyota SUV was traveling from Cagayan de Oro City with eight people on board and was following the police vehicle bound for Bumbaran town.
"Gikan sa CDO (Cagayan de Oro) ang mga police kay naa sila gitambongan nga conference timing lang ni sila nagsunod sila sa area dihang gi-ambush (The police had come from a conference in Cagayan de Oro and the civilian vehicle just happened to be following)," Gonda said.
Investigators estimate about 30 members of the NPA may have fired at the victims from higher ground.
Gonda said the policemen took cover while trying to spot the location of the rebels, adding that the NPA-infested area, where the ambush took place, was not well lighted.
"Kanang Tikalaan daghan intersection diha going to Bukidnon ug Lanao areas and ang checkpoint sa mga sundalo naa pa sa unahan (Tikalaan has many intersections going to different areas of Lanao and Bukidnon. The military has a checkpoint farther up the road),"Gonda added.
Gonda said all wounded are now in stable condition.
PRO-Northern Mindano director Chief Superintendent Timoteo Pacleb condemned the attack.
"We condemn the cold blood murder of the 4-month old child and the PNP member killed. The NPAs are criminals. Let us call for justice to those killed and wounded civilians and policemen," Pacleb said.
The PRO will pursue the investigation in coordination with the military to hold the perpetrators to account.
"The incident will never dampen the spirits of the PNP and the AFP personnel in serving and protecting the people, but rather it will further strengthen their resolve in performing their mandated tasks and duties. The public is encouraged to join hands with the PNP and AFP in tracking the insurgents who carried out the ambush," Pacleb added.
Troops from the 1st Special Forces Battalion recovered an Improvised Explosive Device (IED/landmine), 200 meters wire, detonating cords, empty shells of AK47 rifle bullets and subversive documents at the area.
The military said the atrocities committed by the NPA are clear violations of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRILL) between the government and CPP-NPA-NDF.
"These perpetrators can be compared to savages, infant killers, and murderers of innocent civilians, who thrive on abusing the weak by using coercion and intimidation, without giving any regard to human life and established laws. They do not belong in this civilized society. They will be punished," Brigadier General Eric Vinoya, 403rd Infantry Brigade commander, said.
Meanwhile, the rebels attacked a police convoy in the same village Friday, November 10.
Authorities said police operatives and investigators from Talakag town were on board two vehicles and a motorcycle and were heading home after conducting a probe at the ambush site when they were fired upon by the rebels.
Gonda said the policemen were able to fire back at the rebels in an exchange that lasted for 15 minutes.
No casualties were reported, Gonda said.(SunStar Philippines)
Published in the SunStar Cagayan de Oro newspaper on November 11, 2017.