Three soldiers, one militiaman injured in Escalante clashes

Military personnel secured high-powered firearms, subversive documents, and other valuables during a series of encounters in Barangay Pinapugasan, Escalante City, Negros Occidental, resulting in the death of three suspected NPA rebels and injuries to three soldiers and a militiaman on February 21 and 22. (Photo courtesy of 3ID)

By Glazyl Y. Masculino

BACOLOD City – The 3rd Infantry Division (ID) reported that three soldiers and a member of the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit (Cafgu) Active Auxiliary (CAA) sustained injuries in a series of encounters at Sitio Mansulao, Barangay Pinapugasan, Escalante City, Negros Occidental on February 21 and 22.

Lieutenant Colonel J-jay Javines, head of the Division Public Affairs Office (DPAO) of 3ID, stated that the injured soldiers and the militiaman are now in stable condition and are currently receiving care in a hospital.

The report follows a previous announcement by the Army that three suspected members of the New People’s Army (NPA) were killed during confrontations with the 79th Infantry Battalion (IB) last Wednesday.

Among the deceased rebels were individuals identified as “Jandy,” “Michael,” and “Jose.” According to military records, “Jandy” and “Michael” were minors when they were allegedly recruited by the NPA.

“Jandy” was apprehended during an encounter in San Carlos City in 2018 but was released due to her minor status. In 2021, she reportedly left her two-month-old child in a hut in Sitio Ambulong, Barangay San Fernando, Talisay City, to escape pursuing soldiers.

The child was rescued and entrusted to a childcare institution after attempts by purported relatives to claim the baby were unsuccessful due to lack of documentation.

“Michael” was rescued along with his siblings by the 79th IB in 2022, but they later refused assistance to relocate to relatives, opting to remain in Barangay Hilub-ang.

The recent encounters in Escalante City were a military response to local reports of an armed group engaging in alleged extortion.

The first skirmish occurred at 11 a.m., with another following at 2 p.m. against what is believed to be the remnants of the dismantled Northern Negros Front (NNF-D). A series of clashes continued the next day.

Recovered from the scene were various weapons, communications devices, and documents.

Lieutenant Colonel Arnel Calaoagan, commander of the 79th IB, reflected on the loss of life due to what he termed a “senseless cause” and reaffirmed the battalion’s commitment to ensuring regional security.

Major General Marion Sison, commander of 3ID, highlighted the Negros community’s vigilance and support in combating insurgency, expressing determination to eradicate the NPA’s influence in the region.

In contrast, Ka Cecil Estrella, spokesperson for the Roselyn Jean Pelle Command – Northern Negros Guerrilla Front of the NPA (RJPC-NPA), denounced the Army’s actions, alleging that no actual firefight occurred.

The Army insists the operations were legitimate, citing civilian evidence of the encounters.

“It’s a lie. People there can tell na may ara exchange of fires, and may video ang mga civilians didto,” Javines said, adding that people should not believe their lies.

Javines said that it’s the NPA’s propaganda to malign the troops.