By Glazyl Y. Masculino
BACOLOD City – Two alleged members of the New People’s Army (NPA) were killed in a clash with the Army’s 79th Infantry Batallion (IB) at Sitio Nabalas Dos, Barangay Canlusong, E.B. Magalona, Negros Occidental last Tuesday.
The 79th IB identified the fatalities as Christian Job Joaquin Vargas alias “Nacio,” an alleged squad leader of Squad 3 of the remnants of Northern Negros Front (NNF), and Mylene Malasabas Salgado alias “Iba/Shien/Ruth,” an alleged member of Squad 3 also remnants of NNF, both residents of Barangay Buenavista, Himamaylan City.
Vargas was a former platoon leader of Central Negros 2 (CN2) dismantled NNF, Komiteng Rehiyon – Negros, Cebu, Bohol, Siquijor (KR-NCBS), and a former platoon leader of CN3 and member of Regional Striking Force (RSF), while Salgado was an alleged former political instructor of Sentro De Gabridad (SDG) Platoon, CN2, according to the Army.
The Army said the couple was sent by the Regional Operations Command (ROC) from Central Negros (CN) to reinforce the recovery efforts of the dismantled NNF of the KR-NCBS.
Also, upon verification with E.B Magalona Municipal Police Station, Vargas and Salgado have existing arrest warrants for attempted murder issued by Acting Presiding Judge Walter Zorilla of Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 56 based in Himamaylan City.
Vargas has also multiple existing warrants of arrest for the crime of murder with no bail recommended issued by the court in Kabankalan City.
He was also allegedly involved in numerous violent atrocities including targeted killings, ambush of both Army and police officers, civilians, and extortion activities targeting big businesses.
Based on a report from the 3rd Infantry Division (ID), the 79th IB was responding to reports from civilians about the alleged presence of at least nine remnants of the dismantled NNF-KR-NCBS allegedly conducting extortion activities in the area when the clash broke out.
Military troopers recovered from the encounter site high-powered firearms including two M16 rifles, an M14 rifle, and assorted bandoliers.
Other various war materiel, including an AR15 rifle, an M16 rifle, a Garand rifle, four rifle grenades, assorted live ammunition, personal belongings, and subversive documents with high intelligence value were also recovered the following day. Pursuit operation in the immediate vicinity of the encounter site is ongoing.
No casualties were reported on the government side during the 15-minute firefight.
It can be recalled that Barangay Canlusong is an insurgency-cleared barangay and a recipient of the Local Government Support Fund-Support to Barangay Development Program (SBDP) projects.
Major General Marion Sison, 3ID commander, said in a statement that the NPA’s attempt to regain their influence in the said village failed because the residents themselves rejected them.
They no longer want the NPA to manipulate the people in their communities. Clearly, the people have already chosen to live in peace and made a stand to end local armed conflict, he added.
In February 2019, some residents in this barangay were among the 80 former members and mass supporters of the NPA, who pledged loyalty to the government in Victorias City, according to the 3ID.
The barangay also declared the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-NPA-National Democratic Front (NDF) as persona non grata through a barangay resolution in 2020.
The presence of armed rebels in the area is indicative of the NPA’s recovery and recruitment efforts of their lost mass base, said Lieutenant Colonel J-jay Javines, head of Division Public Affairs Office (DPAO).
However, their attempt was swiftly thwarted by the vigilant residents providing information to our troops, he added.
“We have repeatedly called on the remaining CPP-NPA rebels to surrender before they face harm or death,” Sison said, adding that they have nowhere to go because the people are now voluntarily giving information about their presence, movements, and activities.
In a statement, Lieutenant Colonel Arnel Calaoagan, 79th IB commander, said the residents played a crucial role in making this operation successful. “It’s just unfortunate that the NPAs continue to sacrifice the lives of their members just to pursue their criminal agenda,” he added.
The 79th IB extended their condolences to the family of the deceased NPA members.
“This incident is a clear indication that the NPA does not value the lives of their members,” he said.
The remains of the slain rebels were turned over to the proper authorities.