11 rebels nabbed in Moises Padilla encounter

BACOLOD City – Eleven suspected members of the New People’s Army (NPA) were arrested Monday after a clash between the rebels and government  forces at Barangay Quintin Remo in Moises Padilla, Negros Occidental.

Brigadier Gen. Benedict Arevalo, 303rd Infantry Brigade (303IB) commander, did not identify the suspects, but confirmed they were captured by Moises Padilla police, who served as blocking force during the battle.

According to Arevalo, the suspected rebels appeared before the police officers as the Army troopers launched mortars at the encounter site in Sitio Santos-Santos in the said barangay.

Arevalo said the police officers started to become suspicious of the men as they came from the direction of the encounter site. Their story also did not add up as the suspects claimed they were working as sugarcane cutters, even though they were not carrying machetes or farm tools.

The suspects also gave different names to the police officers further arousing their suspicion that they are part of the rebel group that figured in a gun battle with the soldiers.

The 11 suspects were transported to the Moises Padilla Municipal Police Station for questioning.

Later, one of the suspects was positively identified by witnesses as the gunmen in the murder of town Councilor Jolomar Hilario last Sunday, while another was in the military’s file of suspected rebels.

“The group is part of the gunmen involved in Hilario’s murder and the police have now filed charges against them,” Arevalo said.

Earlier on Monday, soldiers from the Philippine Army 62nd Infantry Battalion engaged in a gun battle with the NPA rebels.

Arevalo believes the rebels involved in the fight are part of the NPA Central Negros Front.

Around 1,700 residents were forced to flee during the battle.

Arevalo added, Hilario’s murder may have been a retaliation of sorts after the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police arrested National Democratic Front spokesperson Ka Frank Fernandez last week in Laguna.