ILOILO – After a five-minute encounter with New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in Barangay Masaroy, Calinog town early morning yesterday, troops of the Philippine Army’s 61st Infantry Battalion (61IB) recovered the following that the rebels left behind as they fled:
* .30 Garand rifle
* M79 grenade launcher
* 12-gauge shotgun
* .38 revolver
* four rifle grenades
* subversive documents
The skirmish erupted around 6:20 a.m., said Lieutenant Colonel Joel Benedict Batara, battalion commander.
There were around 10 rebels. They belonged to the NPA’s Central Front Committee, said Batara.
“We sent our men to the area to verify a report that armed men were spotted there,” he said.
One suspected rebel was arrested. Batara identified him as Remie Castor Diaz with aliases “Fernan” and “Greg.”
Batara thanked civilians for alerting the 61IB.
“We will continue to conduct offensive operations against the rebels,” he said.
Batara was assigned to lead the 61IB based in the town of Miagao just this April 7. He replaced Lieutenant Colonel Sisenando Magbalot Jr. who had commanded the battalion for two years.
Batara was a former executive officer of the Army’s 301st Brigade in Camp Hernandez, Dingle town.
“Manning this battalion is very challenging considering the level of threats from rebels. Itutuloy natin ang mga strategies ng dating battalion commander and also apply fresh approaches,” said Batara.
The 61IB will continue to persuade the rebels to stop their armed struggle and avail themselves of the government’s reintegration program.
But if the rebels refuse to surrender, offensive operations would be launched, said Batara.
“As much as possible gusto nating maiwasan ang gulo. Ayaw naming may namamatay. But if the rebels continue to do atrocities we will protect the community,” he stressed.
Meanwhile, Magbalot is now the battalion commander of the 12th Infantry Battalion (12IB) based in Banga, Aklan. In his two years of leading the 61IB, he initiated 26 anti-insurgency operations.
“It is my honor to serve and secure the Ilonggos. I hope the community will continue to help the Army by giving information about the rebels,” he said./PN