ILOILO City – Soldiers of the Philippine Army’s 61st Infantry Battalion (61IB) repelled some 20 New People’s Army (NPA) rebels from Sitio Tigmahan, Barangay Alimodias, Miag-ao, Iloilo after 20 minutes of gunfight yesterday morning.
The soldiers were in Barangay Alimodias in response to complaints from villagers regarding rebels demanding rice from them, according to Lieutenant Colonel Sisenando Magbalot Jr., 61IB commander.
Around 8:05 a.m. the soldiers spotted what appeared to be an encampment of 20 armed persons. They fired at the rebels.
Magbalot said the rebels fired back but eventually retreated toward the mountains of Sibalom, Antique.
Soldiers recovered from the rebels’ abandoned camp several backpacks, improvised explosive devices, an NPA flag, plastic cups, and subversive documents, said Magbalot.
“We did not find blood there or wounded rebels. They may likely be all unscathed,” said Magbalot.
Still, he described their offensive as “precise”, having successfully located the rebels’ encampment.
Magbalot warned the rebels to better surrender or face “intense combat operations” from government troops.
The encounter happened two days after President Rodrigo Duterte vowed to provide NPA members housing and livelihood if they return to the government’s fold.
“Sumurender kayo. Bigyan ko kayo ng lupa, i-land reform ko muna ‘to at itatayuan ko kayo ng bahay. At for the meantime na pinag-aaralan ninyo paano maghanap-buhay, papapasukin ko dito ang TESDA [Technical Education and Skills Development Authority], ‘yung livelihood, electricians, tapos ang DSWD [Department of Social Welfare and Development] kung ano pa ang matulong nila,” Duterte said in a speech at the launching of the Negosyo Serbisyo sa Barangay in Masbate on Wednesday.
The President said the government has enough money to fund the livelihood and housing programs for rebel surrenderers.
“Anong gusto ninyo? Another 52 years of fighting? Manalo kayo? Not in a million years. Alam ko kung bakit, marami akong napuntahan nag-surrender. Ang mga anak hindi nakapag-aral. Iniwan sa lolo at lola. Pag-surrender, nandiyan malaki na,” he said.
Duterte said his administration has been very keen on making rebels surrender than engaging them in bloody battles.
Duterte said the NPA’s call for land reform is already being addressed under his administration.
“Ako almost every week umiikot ako sa Pilipinas nagdi-distribute ako ng certificate of ownership kasi ang land reform, sinabi ko talaga kay [Department of Agrarian Reform secretary John) Castriciones, unahin mo ‘yan, lalo na sa mga lugar na merong mainit talaga ang issue ng landlord pati tenant,” said the President./PN