LUPON, DAVAO ORIENTAL – Officials from the Provincial Government and the military have closed ranks to condemn the New People’s Army’s recent attack on government soldiers as they lauded military troopers following the rescue of a child soldier and the subsequent recovery of high-powered firearms from the Terrorist-Communist group.
Last week, two encounters between military troops and the NPA group have erupted in the remote village of Maragatas in Lupon town.
The first encounter occurred on May 9 in Sitio Tawas, Barangay Maragatas where troopers of the 28th Infantry Battalion were able to rescue a member of the terrorist group, a minor named “Jack” (not his real name).
The 17-year-old child soldier said he was “forcibly recruited” by the NPA and confessed that war materials are being hidden near their home in Barangay Cabay-angan in his hometown in Dujali, Davao del Norte.
In response, a recovery team composed of intelligence operatives of the 28th IB and Davao Oriental Provincial Mobile Force Company (DOPMFC) were sent to the area where they retrieved one M4 rifle, two (2) bandoliers, and five (5) magazines with live ammunitions.
Jack, who is now temporarily under the care of the 28th Infantry Battalion, added that three of his former comrades are also child soldiers, ages 15-16 years old, who escaped with the group.
IEDs Used by NPA to Attack Soldiers
On May 16, the second encounter broke out in Sitio Piagdugan, Barangay Maragatas.
During the encounter, the NPAs detonated two Improvised Explosive Devices causing minor injuries to three soldiers.
According to the 28th IB Civil-Military Operations Officer First Lieutenant Justin Yu, the encounter erupted when NPA rebels open fired on military troopers who were conducting security operations following reports from residents of NPA sightings.
“Being slowed down by the attack, our troops were able to maneuver the enemies’ defense and overran their position,” said 1st Lt. Yu. He added that the injured soldiers were immediately airlifted to Camp Panacan Hospital in Davao City for treatment and are now in stable condition.
28th Infantry Battalion Commander Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Banatao condemned the NPAs use of IED which “only shows the NPAs blatant disregard on the International Humanitarian Law which strongly prohibits the use of landmines or IEDs.”
Immediately after the encounter and following a tip from a local resident, a known hardcore NPA militia identified as Jimmy Mandabon, who, based on reports was tasked by the group to do a reconnaissance activity in Purok Lunod, was apprehended and later voluntarily divulged information about an arms cache in Sitio Sigang entrusted to him by the NPA.
A joint retrieval operation had ensued conducted by troops from the 701st Brigade, 28IB and the Davao Oriental Provincial Mobile Force Company (DOPMFC) which resulted in the recovery of two (2) Garrand rifles, one (1) M16 rifle, one (1) AR15 rifle, and one (1) utlimax MK3 Machine Gun.
Barangay Maragatas Chief Beverly Rebalde has declared the NPA as ‘persona non-grata’ as she called on her constituents to stand against the NPA who has been inflicting terror on civilians amidst the coronavirus pandemic.
Davao Oriental Governor Nelson Dayanghirang has denounced the unceasing atrocities perpetrated by the New People’s Army against the government and the hapless innocent civilians, stressing that “it must be stopped.”
Meanwhile, he lauded the efforts of the military together with the police forces in “knocking the enemy down” and ensuring the safety and protection of the people.
“This is a major accomplishment not only for the government but a huge victory for the people. Because this would not have been possible without the community’s help,” said Governor Dayanghirang.
Lt. Col. Banatao also extended his thanks to the community. “Timely and accurate information from the community greatly helped us in our pursuit to end insurgency and attain a genuine and lasting peace in our area of responsibility,” he said.
Governor Dayanghirang and the Philippine Army here headed by 701st Brigade Commander Brigadier General Jose Eriel Niembra are urging the remaining members of the New People’s Army to surrender and return to the folds of law and avail of government programs such as the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) for them to start a peacefu life with their families especially in this time of crisis.
A few weeks earlier, the government has warmly welcomed and provided financial assistance to 42 NPA members who voluntarily surrendered to government troops amid intensified crackdown on insurgents who seized food packs from poor families in Baganga town. (Kld-PIO with reports from 28th Infantry Battalion/Photos Courtesy of 28th IB and 701st Brigade)