THE military denied Sunday the claim of the New People’s Army (NPA) that more than a dozen soldiers were killed by armed insurgents in a recent encounter in a remote village in Quezon town, Bukidnon.
In a statement sent to Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro on Saturday, Ka Ariel “Inda” Magbanwag, spokesman of the NPA-South Central Bukidnon sub-regional command, said 13 soldiers of the Philippine Army’s 8th Infantry Battalion (8th IB) were killed by a command-detonated explosive in sitio Tubod, Barangay Cawayan, Quezon around 5:30 p.m. of October 6.
Aside from those killed by the explosion, Magbanwag added, “many more soldiers were wounded while the guerrilla unit implementing the offensive action suffered no casualties.”
Magbanwag said the soldiers were on a combat mission from sitio Kiranggol in Barangay Dao in San Fernando town, Bukidnon “to bolster the distressed force of the Butsoy Salusad bandit group in the wake of the recent NPA attack.”
The rebels thoroughly monitored their exit route toward Quezon town, he added.
Magbanwag also said that the rebels detonated the explosive device on the spot where some 53 soldiers took cover when the firefight began.
u201cThe 8th IB troops, fresh from their retraining course, suffered heavy casualties,” he added.
Magbanwag said the military couldn’t hide the casualties that resulted from the firefight.
u201cLieutenant Norman Tagros, 8th IB spokesperson, denies at every turn when confronted with questions by the local media regarding the incident and their casualties,” he said.
Proof of this, he said, residents noticed two ambulances and two military service vehicles “discretely parked near the cemetery in Salawagan” after the encounter.
The next day, he said villagers also saw “another striped KIA truck carrying a load covered in tarp was seen coming from the command post by residents celebrating fiesta in Salawagan.”
u201cAs always the case, they (military) deny ever committing violation of international humanitarian law in forcing a barangay tanod to guide their troops and in strafing a civilian. Worst of all, they indiscriminately accused the residents of being NPA supporters and blamed them for the harsh beating suffered by their troops,” Magbanwag added.
But Captain Christian Uy, spokesman of the 4th Infantry Division, said the NPA statement was untrue.
u201cIt was a mere propaganda,” Uy told Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro in a telephone interview Sunday afternoon.
Uy confirmed, however, that there was indeed an encounter last October 6 in said area between the soldiers and the armed rebels but it was brief.
u201cThere was an encounter but it lasted only five minutes,” he said.
Uy said there were only five NPA rebels who figured in the firefight, but they withdrew shortly.
He said there was no casualty on the military, while it was not determined if there was any NPA rebel who was either killed or injured in the conflict.
Uy also clarified that what the NPA has are not command-detonated explosives, but landmines.
It’s just so sad, he said, the NPA has resorted to using landmines which could injure civilians.