Monday, March 19, 2012

Masbate Clashes Leave 2 rebels dead, 10 firearms confiscated

MASBATE CITY– Two NPA bandits lay dead in a series of clashes that erupted in different areas in here today, a military official said.
Lt Col Jun Pacatan, Commander of the 9thInfantry Battalion of the Philippine Army said that four separate clashes with NPA bandits happened in his area of responsibility starting at early morning today, March 19.
The first encounter between 15 NPA rebels and the platoon of soldiers led by 2Lt Jeffrey A Fajardo occurred at 5:45 a.m. in Dimasalang town. An M16 Armalite Rifle, 2 shotguns and 4 improvised bombs were confiscated in the said clash which lasted around 5 mins.
Receiving fresh information from the residents about the fleeing bandits, another platoon led by 2Lt Severato R Mazon encountered about six of the rebels and engaged them in a running gun battle in nearby village of Cabrera at 7:20a.m.
The soldiers confiscated an M653 rifle (baby Armalite) and a Cal .38 revolver during the 2nd clash which lasted about 10 minutes before the rebels fled with their casualties.
At around 9:00 a.m, another clash erupted at San Jose village, Uson town when the platoon led by 2Lt Brian Saura chanced upon another band of rebels. The bandits scampered to various directions after the 5-minute clash, leaving behind an M16 Rifle and personal belongings.
At around 10:20am, another platoon of soldiers led by 1Lt Richard F Caspillo clashed against the bandits in Cagara village, Baleno town. The rebels put up a fight which lasted 5 minutes, before they escaped to the mountains, leaving behind two dead comrades with their firearms including two M16 rifles, 1 US M1 Garand Rifle and 2 shotguns.
No one among the soldiers was hurt in the said clashes. The dead rebels were brought to the village officials for identification purposes.
Pacatan said that the soldiers are now receiving the full cooperation of the civilian residents in the area. “I am very thankful for the vital information provided to us by the villagers about the presence of armed bandits. The people are already fed up by the oppressive extortion activities which victimize all of them,” said Pacatan.
Meanwhile, the 903rd Brigade Commander, Col Felix Castro, said that he is still hopeful that the NPA rebels will consider laying down their arms and cooperate in the government’s peace and development efforts.
“I hope the rest of the bandits will consider abandoning their armed struggle and start working with us in our drive to end the communist insurgency. It is only by means of Bayanihan that we can achieve our goal of attaining economic prosperity for all,” said Castro.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Another NPA Murder Victim Grave Site Discovered

CAMP ELIAS ANGELES, Pili, Camarines Sur – “This is my son”, said Consuelo C Pongan, 60 years old, as tears rolled in her eyes upon seeing the set of skeletal remains that was presented to her and her family by Army soldiers of the 83rd Infantry Battalion yesterday.

“It is still very vivid in my mind that this was exactly the t-shirt and the necklace he was wearing when he was forcibly dragged by NPA rebels at our house in 2007”, she added.

Yesterday (February 24) at around 0930 in the morning, a group of soldiers from the 83rd Infantry Battalion exhumed the skeletal remains of a NPA murder victim later identified as Joel C Pongan in a shallow grave site at Sitio Ikanbayong, Brgy Maysuram of Caramoran town of the island province of Catanduanes.

Acting on a revelation of a former NPA rebel regarding NPA murder victim years back, Army Sergeant Romel Brillante and his squad proceeded to the gravesite to dig for the remains. “Naniniwala ako na may pamilya din ang biktima na nag aantay sa kanya para umuwi o makita man lamang ang kanyang katawan kung sya ay patay na”, said Sgt Brillante.”Kaya sinikap naming mahanap ito para mabigyan ng hustisya ang biktima”, he added.

According to the mother of the victim, Joel was last seen on June 25, 2007 when four armed (4) NPA rebels forcibly dragged his son at their residence at Brgy Maysuram of Caramoran while he was off from work. She said that her son was a former rebel who decided to leave the underground movement and go back to the stream of the society. When his surrender was recognized by the government, he joined the CAFGU.

“So many false hopes and promises, this was what my son was telling me why he left the rebel movement”, said the mother.

“We will assist the family in the filing of charges against the NPA rebels”, said Ltc Rod Batang, Commanding Officer of the 83rd Infantry Battalion stationed in San Andres, Catanduanes. .

The skeletal remains was turned over to the Caramoran Municipal Police Station for documentation and for proper filing of charges.

On February 19, 2012, the body of Onesto Ojas Jr, A NPA murder victim, was exhumed in Brgy Calabasa, Labo in Camarines Norte after concerned residence revealed the information to the 49th Infantry Battalion.

“The 9th ID believes that there are more murder victims of the NPA not yet reported to the proper authorities here in Bicol. Joel Pongan and Onesto Ojas Jr are just a few of them”, said Major Angelo S Guzman, 9ID spokesperson.

Armed Clash Erupts in Cam Norte, 4 Dead

CAMP ELIAS ANGELES, Pili, Camarines Sur---- Four people lay dead in a clash between Army soldiers and a band of NPA rebels in a hinterland village of Camarines Norte early afternoon today, Feb 25.

Lt Col Epimaco Macalisang, the Commanding Officer of the 49th Infantry Battalion, said that he sent a platoon of his unit after receiving a 'hot information' regarding the extortion activity of the rebels in Malaya village, Labo town.

"Our informant told me that the rebels were asking for food and extortion money from them. I readily dispatched my soldiers to check the veracity of the report," said Macalisang.

The clash broke out when the rebels started firing as soldiers approached their location at around 1:00 PM. The soldiers traded fires with the rebels who were positioned in concealed places around the encounter site.

The rebels fled after about 10 minutes of exchange of fires, leaving behind two of their dead comrades. There were no casualties among the soldiers who pursued the remnants of the armed rebels.

The soldiers confiscated two highpowered rifles including a Cal 5.56mm M4 Commando and a US Cal 7.62mm M14 Rifle from the slain bandits.

Residents who rushed to the scene identified one of the dead as Rafael Llanto a.k.a. Gopi, the second highest leader of the communist rebels in the region. They said that Llanto is a familiar face in the village during their extortion activities.

Another dead rebel was identified as Benjamin Manzera, 54, a resident of the said village.

Crossfire victims

Moments later, the soldiers who scoured the area discovered another two lifeless bodies of young boys who were caught in the fighting.

Macalisang identified the two as Michael Manzera,10, and his brother Richard, 7.

Another sister, Leoneza, 14, sustained a gunshot wound in her wrist and was promptly treated by the Army's combat medics. She is now recuperating in a hospital in Daet town.

Initial report states that the victims are the children of the slain rebel.

"I am saddened by this incident. I blamed it to the rebels who fired automatic shots at my soldiers, sending countless bullets to various directions," said Macalisang.

Another group of soldiers have proceeded to the area with SOCO operatives to conduct thorough investigation.

Major General Josue Gaverza, the Commander of the 9th Infantry Division, has condoled with the grieving relatives of the crossfire victims.

"I have offered the Army's assistance to the bereaved family members of the slain civilians. I am equally saddened by this unfortunate incident wherein these innocent children are caught in the crossfire. I have requested the PNP authorities in Camarines Norte to conduct a thorough investigation regarding this encounter," said Gaverza.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Girl, 21, recants testimony against Army soldiers

FORT BONIFACIO, Taguig City – The woman who accused Army soldiers gang-raping her withdraws the charges that she filed before a Masbate court, a military official said.
Lieutenant Colonel Jun Pacatan, the Commanding Officer of the 9thInfantry Battalion, said that the rape case filed by a certain "Lanie" (name withheld) was withdrawn by the complainant in her Affidavit of Desistance that she signed on February 20 (Monday).
Pacatan said that Atty Richard Riveral, the Assistant Provincial Prosecutor of Masbate, was present during the signing.
“The affidavit states that that allegation that she was raped or sexually abused by the respondents on January 30 and February 2 inside the military camp located in Puro village, Milagros town is not true,” said Pacatan.
Pacatan disclosed that the alleged rape victim followed her conscience and voluntarily withdrew the charges against her friends who invited her inside camp.
"The woman said that her accusations were not true, and that in the interest of justice, she prayed for the dismissal of the complaint," added Pacatan.
It can be recalled that "Lanie" engaged in a drinking spree with the soldiers inside the camp late evening on January 30, 2012.
Her soldier-friends allowed her inside the camp premises of Bravo Company/9th IB in Puro village, without the knowledge of the officers and senior enlisted men who are responsible over them.
She returned in the same camp on February 2 where she was again welcomed by one of the soldiers. Together, they went strolling in the nearby village of Calachuche.
The investigation conducted by the 9th Infantry Battalion disclosed that, "there were no indications of commotion or noises" during the time that the woman was inside camp.
The investigating body was also wondering why Lanie returned to the camp on February 2 after she was allegedly 'raped' by the soldiers.
She never complained to the military authorities about the alleged rape.
Administrative sanctions
Despite the withdrawal of the case against them, the soldiers will face administrative cases filed against them.
Pacatan said that he will never condone the wrongdoing of his soldiers who violated Army regulations by secretly allowing a civilian inside camp for a drinking session.
"I have relieved all the accused soldiers from their posts, including their Company Commander and the First Sergeant who will face sanctions for command responsibility. The six soldiers are now facing charges (Articles of War) filed before the Army's Provost Marshall Office in 9ID headquarters," he said.
Meanwhile, Major Harold M Cabunoc, the Army Spokesperson, said that the Philippine Army will never tolerate any transgressions to their regulations.
"Our efforts to transform the Army is a continuous process and a daunting task that we must fulfill. We are a professional organization led by competent leaders who want to make the Army the source of national pride," said Cabunoc.

Friday, January 27, 2012

NPA Rebels Torch Down Passenger Bus in Albay

FORT BONIFACIO, Taguig City – A Silver Star bus which originated from Bulan town Sorsogon and heading towards Manila was torched down by suspected NPA rebels In Barangay Cagbacong, Legaspi City last night (January 26) at around 07:30 pm.

Eyewitnesses claimed that the suspects posing as passengers, boarded the bus at a stopover terminal in Sorsogon City.

Upon reaching the area between Cumadcad and Sogoy villages in Castilla town, the armed men drew their pistols and introduced themselves as NPA rebels.

At the junction in Barangay Sogoy, Castilla town they commandeered the bus towards Barangay Cagbacong, an interior barangay of Legaspi City where three more rebels with long firearms were waiting.

The passengers were forcibly herded out of the bus before pouring gasoline and razing it to the ground.

The passengers fled the scene and made it back to the national hi-way where they reported the incident to the police in Barangay Cumadcad.

“Extortion is the primary motive in this burning incident. The people have denounced this atrocity wherein the NPA rebels have terrorized not just the business owners but also the innocent passengers,” said Col Felix Castro Jr., 903rd Brigade Commander based in Sorsogon.

He added that coordination has been made with the PNP to track the rebels.