MORE than 70 soldiers from three battalions of the Philippine Army and four policemen in Negros Occidental were recognized for their bravery in fighting the New People’s Army (NPA), in rites held during the celebration of the 77th Araw ng Kagitingan on April 9.
Brigadier General Benedict Arevalo, commander of 303rd Infantry Brigade (IBde) of the Philippine Army, said those awarded with military commendation medals were soldiers from the 15th Infantry Battalion (IB) 62nd IB, and 79th IB, as well as members of the 6th Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF).
For the past weeks, a total of four encounters between the government troops and the NPA terrorists happened in the province.
The first encounter happened at Barangay Mabini, Escalante City, where troops of the 79th IB recovered one M16 rifle, medicine, and other personal belongings of NPA on March 21.
It was followed by another clash at Barangay Quintin Remo, Moises Padilla town on April 1, which resulted in the recovery of several firearms and ammunition, temporary evacuation of more than 1,700 residents, and apprehension of 11 suspected NPAs who were reportedly tagged in the killing of reelectionist Jolomar Hilario of Barangay Inolingan.
The following day, another encounter ensued at Barangay Tampalon, Kabankalan City, which resulted in the recovery of an M16 rifle, several ammunition, laptop, cellular phones, and other subversive documents with high intelligence value.
The recent encounter was at Barangay Buenavista, Himamaylan City which resulted in the discovery of a temporary camp of NPA in the area, which can accommodate about 60 people.
It also resulted in the injuries of seven soldiers and the alleged death of two rebels.
Arevalo said “for almost 30 years, I’ve seen so many soldiers died for the sake of freedom and democracy in Negros Island. Today I would like to honor them, the unsung heroes of the campaign against the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-NPA-National Democratic Front (NDF).”
“We are celebrating considering that for the last 30 years we were running after the top leader of CPP-NPA-NDF in Negros, Francisco Fernandez, who was finally captured a few days ago in Laguna,” he added.
“For us, this is the reason to celebrate today, a victory, not a defeat for our soldiers in Negros Island and I hope this will inspire our troops in Negros Island to include the whole of the Visayas,” the Army commander said.
Arevalo urged the troops to continue the efforts of the Army in addressing insurgency in Negros Island.
“We must continue to be loyal to our country and protect the people,” he said.