THREE soldiers from the Army's 8th Infantry Battalion (8IB) were killed by New People's Army (NPA) rebels in Barangay Kibalabag, Malaybalay City, around 5 p.m. of February 1, several hours after the communist rebels withdrew their unilateral ceasefire.

The Maoist rebels said in a statement that the three soldiers, who were riding a motorcycle, were stopped by the NPA, but the soldiers resisted.

"Sa dihang gipahunong ang gisakyan nilang duha ka motor, nagpakita og pagsukol pinaagi sa pagbunot sa ilang mga dalang mugbong armas. Busa, isip pagdepensa, napugos ang NPA sa pagpusil kanila nga miresulta sa ilang kamatayon (They did not stop when they were told and instead pulled their guns. In defense, the NPA was forced to shoot them, resulting in their death)," the NPA said.

It added that the NPA rebels seized three caliber .45 pistols from the soldiers.

Only one of the three soldiers were identified by the NPA through his identification card. The soldier was identified as Pat Olango from Barangay Cugman, Cagayan de Oro City.

First Lieutenant Erwin Bugarin, 8IB spokesperson, said the soldiers were missing since Wednesday night after they failed to report back to their unit.

"Ingon ang mga civilian nga nakadungog daw sila ug gunshots not far from their barangay, then pagkataud-taud, naa silay nakita nga tulo ka patay nga lawas naghigda sa kilid sa dalan (Civilians told us they heard gunshots not far from their barangay and later on, they saw the three bodies lying beside the road)," Bugarin said.

Bugarin said the soldiers belong to the Community Organizing for Peace and Development and were in the area to follow up on projects and programs in the barangays, coordinate with the police and the local government unit, and buy food.

Contrary to the NPA's statement, Bugarin said the soldiers were unarmed and were wearing civilian clothes. The NPA also claimed to have destroyed a backhoe and bulldozer owned by Del Monte Philippines at 10:13 pm, Wednesday, February 1.

The rebels likewise accused soldiers and some residents of forging an alliance called "DDSM" or the Duterte Drug Squad Movement, led by a military intelligence battalion which purportedly target drug personalities but in reality, targets progressive leaders.

"Adunay higayon nga gipatawag ang mga lider mag-uuma sa gabie aron imbistegaron ug pugos nga ipasulti kun asa ang kampo sa NPA, mga lider, mga tig-suporta ug pundohanan sa sulat bisan og wala kini mga kasayuran," the rebels said.

"Gikasilagan sila sa mga lumulupyo tungod sa ilang mga dautang binuhatan ug impluwensya sama sa pagpakaylap sa malaw-ay nga salida, sugal ug inom. Aduna usay panahon nga nagmaoy ang CO ug ang iyang ginsakpan. Interogasyon ug pagpamig-ot sa katawhan ug walay community service ang napahigayon," it added. (Pamela Jay Orias/SunStar Cagayan de Oro)