THREE New People's Army (NPA) rebels were killed and a minor was rescued in two separate clashes with government troops in the boundary of Barangay Diatagon, Lianga in Surigao del Sur, and Barangay Mabuhay, Prosperidad in Agusan del Sur.
Lieutenant Colonel Benedict Harvey Gernale, the commanding officer of the 3rd Special Forces Battalion of the Philippine Army, said the Special Forces Team was conducting security operations to verify the presence of armed group foraging for food in Sitio Tibog, Barangay Mabuhay when they clashed with 20 NPA rebels around 2 p.m. of June 14.
Gernale said the firefight lasted for more than five minutes, after which the government troops pursued the withdrawing rebel group and captured an NPA combatant.
He added that the captured NPA rebel is a minor. They brought her to the local police who later turned her over to the Municipal Social Welfare and Development Office of Prosperidad for psychological intervention and appropriate assistance.
The name of the rescued NPA combatant was withheld for her security.
Seized at the encounter site were black powder, blasting caps, and assorted nails, which are integral components of an anti-personnel mine.
Gernale said another firefight ensued around 2 p.m. of June 15 when another Special Forces Team tracked the fleeing NPA rebels at the vicinity of Sitio New Decoy, Barangay Diatagon, Linga.
He said the rebels fired at the soldiers and detonated an anti-personnel mine.
The firefight lasted for more than 10 minutes and resulted in the deaths of three NPA rebels and the recovery of one AK47 rifle, two caliber .45 pistols, two anti-personnel mines, one claymore mine, magazines and ammunition, and two blasting caps, 25-meter long detonating cord, and 30-meter electrical wire attached to a firing switch.
The three slain NPA rebels were identified as 38-year-old Lenie Perez Rivas, 20-year-old Willy Salinas Rodriguez, and a 12-year-old minor whose name was withheld. All of them were members of the Sub-Regional Sentro de Grabidad Southland, North Eastern Mindanao Regional Committee (NEMRC).
"This incident once again proved that the CTG (Communist Terrorist Group) has no regard for human rights and they are blatantly violating the International Humanitarian Law (IHL) by recruiting minors to join their senseless armed struggle," said Brigadier General Allan Hambala, commander of 401st Brigade.
Brigadier General Oliver Vesliño, acting commander of the 4th Infantry Division (4ID) and JTF Diamond, for his part, said that concerned AFP units under JTF Diamond are pursuing the fleeing communist rebels so that justice will be served to the victims of their lies and deception.
"AFP units under JTF Diamond will continue its relentless security operations against the CTG in Caraga region to destroy the armed group, and stop its resource generation and recruitment of minors," Vesliño said.
He added that they will file cases of IHL violations against the leadership of NEMRC.
Vesliño also extended his condolences to the families of the killed NPA rebels whose bodies were turned over to their families in Sitio Manluy-a, Barangay Diatagon, Lianga in Surigao del Sur.
Vesliño urged the remaining NPA members to return to the folds of the law and avail themselves of the government's Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program.