Clashes in Moises Padilla displace 275 residents

The mother of 24-year-old Marlo Catacio weeps after learning about the death of her son following two clashes with suspected New People’s Army (NPA) remnants and the government forces in Barangay Quintin Remo, Moises Padilla, Negros Occidental Thursday. (Photo courtesy of Municipality of Moises Padilla)

By Glazyl Y. Masculino

BACOLOD CITY – The two encounters between the suspected New People’s Army (NPA) rebels and government forces in Barangay Quintin Remo, Moises Padilla, Negros Occidental, have affected at least 275 residents last Thursday.

Mayor Ella Celestina Garcia-Yulo, in a media interview, said the municipal government, along with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), has already extended assistance to the affected residents.

Yulo said that they would also extend burial assistance to the family of the slain rebel.

The Army’s 3rd Infantry Division (ID) identified the fatality as 24-year-old Marlo “Malot” Catacio, an alleged member of Sangay Yunit Propaganda (SYP), of the dismantled CN1.

The first clash against five suspected remnants of the dismantled Central Negros (CN) 1 Komiteng Rehiyon – Negros Cebu Bohol Siquijor, broke out around 5:35 a.m. when personnel of the 2nd Negros Occidental Provincial Mobile Force Company (Nocpmfc) and 62nd Infantry Battalion (IB) responded to reports on the alleged presence of unidentified armed men in the area.

Recovered from the encounter site were a KG9 sub-machine gun with a magazine loaded with four serviceable ammunition, a rifle grenade, a bandolier, a pancho, two backpacks, medical paraphernalia, and subversive documents with high intelligence value.

It was followed by another clash around 9:18 a.m. as the government forces were pursuing the fleeing armed men. It led to the recovery of a .38 caliber revolver loaded with three serviceable ammunition, a rifle grenade, a bandolier, and three magazines (long) containing 29 serviceable 5.56mm ammunition.

No casualties were reported on the government side. A retrieval team, composed of personnel from Moises Padilla Municipal Police Station and the 62nd IB, was dispatched to the encounter site to recover Catacio’s remains and conduct a thorough inspection and preliminary investigation.

According to the Army, Catacio, who was reportedly accompanied by members of the NPA Special Partisan Unit (SPARU), was allegedly involved in a shooting incident on August 6, 2023 in the said village, resulting in the death of a 28-year-old laborer who was reportedly accused of feeding information about the NPA to the Army.

In a statement, Ka JB Regalado, spokesperson of Leonardo Panaligan Command-NPA Central Negros Guerrilla Front, said that no encounter happened in the said village, since there were no rebels in the area.

Regalado said they condemned the killing of Catacio, who was not a member of the NPA and was a just a civilian.

Catacio’s mother, in a radio interview, said that her son was not an active NPA rebel, but he surrendered to the Army last year after she encouraged him for his safety.

Captain Jessie Ebalan, acting civil military operations officer of the 303rd IBde, said that according to the 62nd IB, they had approached the Catacio family to negotiate his surrender, but he did not surrender.

Catacio’s mother also claimed that the firearms recovered in the encounter site were “planted,” as her son had no weapon.

Brigadier General Orlando Edralin, commander of the 303rd Infantry Brigade (IBde), in a statement, denied the said allegation, saying that it was a legitimate encounter.

Edralin said that Catacio was also identified by his former comrades in the armed struggle as an active rebel.

“We sympathize and condole to the bereaved family of Catacio,” he said.

Meanwhile, Yulo hopes that there will be a long term solution to address the insurgency problem, especially in the upland areas.