Slain soldier’s firearm recovered in Kabankalan clash

A service firearm of a slain soldier that was recovered following a clash that killed six New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in Barangay Tabugon, Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental Thursday. (Photo courtesy of 47th IB)

By Glazyl Y. Masculino

BACOLOD City – Troopers of the Army’s 47th Infantry Battalion (IB) recovered a service firearm of their slain colleague following a clash with the New People’s Army (NPA) rebels at Sitio Lubi, Barangay Tabugon, Kabankalan, Negros Occidental on September 21.

According to the 3rd Infantry Division (ID), a government-owned .45-caliber pistol with serial number 005075 AFP that was issued to Sergeant Regie Glindro was among the notable items recovered from the six alleged NPA rebels killed in the encounter.

This development came barely a year after Glindro and his colleague, who were both intelligence personnel, were killed in an ambush staged by the NPA at Sitio Camboguiot, Barangay Camindangan, Sipalay City on November 24, 2022.

“In a poignant turn of events, justice now appears closer at hand for the fallen Army personnel, as those responsible for their murders have paid for their crimes in an armed engagement with the Army troops who were conducting a community security patrol in response to a report indicating the presence of NPA extortionists in the area,” the 3ID said in a statement.

In a recent report from the 3ID, the fatalities in the encounter were identified as alleged members of the Samahang Yunit Propaganda, Southwest Front (SWF)-Komiteng Rehiyon-Negros, Cebu, Bohol, Siquijor (KR-NCBS) led by Alejo Delos Reyes, alias “Peter/Bravo,” squad leader of Squad 2 of SYP Platoon 3; his wife Melissa Dela Pena, alias “Diane”; Bobby Pedro, alias “Recoy,” vice squad leader of Squad 3 in the same platoon; Mario Fajardo Mullon, alias “Reco/Goring,” medic of Squad 1 from the same platoon; and Ruben Gaitan, a member.

The sixth fatality was identified last Saturday as Janice Flores, an alleged medic of the group, according to Lieutenant Colonel J-jay Javines, head of Division Public Affairs Office (DPAO).

Javines said that Pedro’s remains have been claimed by his family, while the five others are still in a funeral home.

The rebel group was also tagged in several attacks in the province, including the killing of a pastor in Sipalay City in February 2020, the ambush-slay of two soldiers in Cauayan town in April 2021, the burning of construction equipment in the cities of Kabankalan and Sipalay in March 2022, and the killing of a civilian suspected as a military informant in Ilog town in January 2023, according to the Army.

Following the clash, the local government of Kabakalan and the 47th IB extended assistance to the residents residing near the encounter site who were affected.

The City Social Welfare and Development Office (CSWDO) conducted stress debriefing for adults and children and distributed food packs benefiting 50 families.

The Army also held an anti-insurgency awareness activity at the barangay covered court last Saturday. They assured the residents that with the support of other government agencies, they would always ensure their safety and security against the NPA.

NPA: ‘Massacre not encounter’

The Armando Sumayang Jr Command of the NPA Southwest Negros Guerrilla Front (ASJC-NPA), in a statement, condemned the death of its medical personnel, a rebel couple on medical leave, and a tricycle driver in Kabankalan City.

The rebel group said that they considered the incident as a “massacre” and not an encounter.

ASJC-NPA spokesperson Ka Andrea Guerrero said that the non-combatants were on board a hired tricycle driven by Gaitan and were travelling along Sitio Lubi when personnel of the 47th IB allegedly suddenly indiscriminately fired on them.

The group said that Pedro, Mullon, and Flores were medical personnel of the NPA, while Delos Reyes and his wife were on medical leave, as the latter was six months pregnant.

The Army, on the other hand, maintained that it was an encounter as military troopers engaged in a firefight with the NPA rebels after receiving a tip-off from residents regarding the latter’s alleged extortion activity in the area.

Meanwhile, Ka Bayani Obrero, spokesperson of the National Democratic Front (NDF)-Negros, in a separate statement, said that it offered a Red salute to revolutionary martyrs and heroes “who gave their lives to liberate the people from oppression and exploitation.”

Obrero urged human rights defenders and their organizations to launch independent investigations and fact-finding missions on the recent incidents in the province.