* 61IB soldier killed, 2 wounded * NPA used truce to recruit more members – Army

BY RUBY P. SILUBRICO

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Philippine Army reinforcement troops get ready to board a helicopter that will take them to Tapaz, Capiz where comrades were ambushed by New People’s Army rebels on Feb. 7, 2017. One soldier was killed in action while two others were wounded.RMN-ILOILO

ILOILO City – Rebels detonated an improvised explosive device in Barangay Tacayan, Tapaz, Capiz yesterday morning, killing a Philippine Army corporal and wounding two others.  

It was an ambush. Right after the explosion, an estimated 40 cadres of the New People’s Army (NPA) fired their guns at some 20 soldiers responding to reports that armed men were in the hinterland village.  

The 29-year-old Corporal Ricky Bill Farinas of Dumarao, Capiz was killed in action. His two wounded companions were Sergeant William Viaro and Private First Class Donald Lisbo. They were all members of the 61st Infantry Battalion (61IB).

According to Colonel Leonardo Peña of the 61IB, rebels carried out the ambush around 6 a.m. The companions of Farinas, Viaro and Lisbo quickly took cover and fired their guns at the insurgents.

“We are so sad. (Corporal Farinas) devoted his life to our country,” he said.

The exchange of gunfire lasted for some 20 minutes after which the rebels withdrew, Peña told Panay News.

“We received information from residents that there were wounded rebels, too, but we could not ascertain the number yet,” he said.

Residents also claimed hearing a voice of a young woman from among the fleeing rebels, Peña added.

A military report said the rebels were headed by a one Vidal Paredes.

The Army’s 3rd Infantry Division based in nearby Jamindan town sent reinforcement troops to Tapaz after learning of the ambush.

This was the second time 61IB troops clashed with rebels this month. The first was on Feb. 4 in the remote village of Cabatangan in Lambunao, Iloilo.

The encounter happened around 12:05 a.m. while the Charlie Company of the 61IB was verifying reports that an armed group of about 14 men were in the area. No one from the government side was wounded.

According to Peña, the NPA took advantage of the unilateral ceasefire of the government to recruit more members since August last year. President Rodrigo Duterte lifted the ceasefire Friday last week, accusing the rebels of killing state forces.

On Feb. 1 rebels fired guns in the hinterland barangay of Boloc in Tubungan, Iloilo some 250 meters away from where Philippine Army soldiers of the 82nd Infantry Battalion were staying.

The bursts of gunfire heard were around 12:25 a.m., hours after the NPA leadership announced the lifting of their unilateral ceasefire on Feb. 10, alleging continued military atrocities across the country.

According to Lieutenant Colonel Vener Morga of the Philippine Army’s 82nd Infantry Battalion based in town of Miag-ao, his men found five empty bullet shells of an M16 armalite rifle from where the rebels were believed to have fired their guns.

An hour after the Tubungan incident, residents of Barangay Osorio, San Remegio, Antique also heard bursts of gunfire.

They believed the rebels were also responsible for it.

In Malacañang yesterday, Defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana told reporters that the NPA has taken advantage of the truce and peace process to recruit more cadres and strengthen its force.

“Noong nag-ceasefire tayo, meron silang surge ng mga recruitment (When we had a ceasefire, they had a surge of recruits). That’s what we heard from our people on the ground,” Lorenzana told reporters in a Palace briefing./PN