ILOILO – It was a “show of force.”
This was how the Philippine Army described the brief checkpoint set up by New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in the far-flung barangay of San Jose in Miag-ao town five days before today’s midterm elections.
Lieutenant Colonel Joel Benedict Batara, commander of the 61st Infantry Battalion (IB), played down the incident.
“The checkpoint lasted for around 10 minutes only. It was very brief,” he said.
There were about 12 rebels, with some of them wearing the athletic uniform of the Philippine National Police, according to 1st Lieutenant Hazel Dulotan, spokesperson of the 61IB.
The rebels were carrying long firearms. They set up the checkpoint around 9:52 a.m.
According to Dulotan, the rebels did not harm civilians.
The rebels were already gone when 61IB troops reached Barangay San Jose.
From what the Army gathered from residents, the rebels were youngsters between 15 to 17 years old.
They were probably new recruits of the NPA Southern Front, Komiteng Rehiyon-Panay, said Batara.
Barangay San Jose is some 15 kilometers away from Miag-ao’s town proper.
Batara said a sufficient number of Army soldiers have been mobilized to the village after the NPA left.
“The rebels are known to take advantage of circumstances. We do not know when they will reappear,” he said. (With a report from the Philippine News Agency/PN)