Army scores ‘big’ vs. Reds amid TD Vicky in Agusan Sur

BIG HAUL. The firearms, war materiel and subversive documents seized by troopers from the 3rd Special Forces Battalion of the Philippine Army after a one-hour encounter with New People’s Army members on Friday (Dec. 18, 2020) in a remote area of Sitio Paradise, Barangay Magsaysay, Prosperidad, Agusan del Sur. A rebel was killed during the gun battle. (Photo courtesy of 3SFBn)

BUTUAN CITY – Through the support of Indigenous Peoples (IP) communities, the Army’s 3rd Special Forces Battalion (3SFBn) scored big against the communist New People’s Army (NPA) in a one-hour encounter that took place in a remote area of Sitio Paradise, Barangay Magsaysay, Prosperidad, Agusan del Sur on Friday (Oct. 18).

A rebel died in the firefight while various firearms and belongings of the communist group were seized in the incident.

1Lt. Krisjuper Andreo J. Punsalan, the civil-military operation (CMO) officer of 3SFBn, told the Philippine News Agency on Sunday that IP communities reported the threats they faced due to the presence of more than 30 armed NPA rebels planning to conduct extortion activities among residents in the area at the height of the onslaught of Tropical Depression (TD) Vicky.

“Upon receiving the report, our troops, despite the rescue operations they are conducting while in the midst of TD Vicky, immediately responded to the distress call of the IPs and engaged the NPA rebels,” Punsalan said.

After an hour of intense fighting, the rebels retreated to different directions, leaving behind a dead companion and the recovery of five high-powered firearms consisting of four M16 caliber rifles and one AK-47 rifle.

The Army troopers also recovered one anti-personnel land mine, nine rounds 40mm M203 grenade launcher ammunition, 50 rounds 7.62mm M60 ammunition, two sets of commercial radios, 15 backpacks and personal belongings, medical supplies and equipment, three keypad cellular phones, one cellphone, and a 20-meter electrical wire.

“We believe that the NPA rebels were already in the area for days as we discovered a 200-square meter hideout that can accommodate more or less 30 persons with 15 makeshift tents and kitchen paraphernalia,” Punsalan said.

The NPA rebels were led by a certain Rizaldy Sumonod alias “Mansoy” of the Sub-Regional Sentro De Grabidad (SRSDG) Southland of Northeastern Mindanao Regional Committee (NEMRC) of the NPA, he added.

The authorities are still verifying the identity of the NPA rebel killed during the encounter, Punsalan said.

In a statement on Sunday, Lt. Col. Joey B. Baybayan, the commander of 3SFBn, said the NPA rebels have no safe place in Agusan del Sur and the rest of the Caraga Region.

“The succeeding debacles of the CPP (Communist Party of the Philippine) – NPA Terrorists in Caraga only show that people had enough of them. They no longer have a safe haven in the IP communities because for sure they will be reported and tracked down,” Baybayan said.

He also noted that this year, a number of towns and barangays in the Caraga Region have already declared the NPA as persona non grata in their respective communities.

In a separate statement, Brig. Gen. Allan D. Hambala, the commander of 401st Infantry Brigade, expressed sadness over the death of an NPA rebel.

“We are saddened with the fact that another victim of the CPP-NPA-NDF (National Democratic Front) died in vain. We do not want this, that is why we need to support the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) to put an end to the CNTs’ (Communist NPA Terrorists) useless struggle by peacefully addressing the root causes of NPA terrorism by implementing peace and development program in the conflict-affected and geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas where they recruit and conduct ideological, political and organizing works,” Hambala said.

Maj. Gen. Andres C. Centino, commander of the 4th Infantry Division, lauded the success of the 3SFBn.

He also urged the remaining NPA rebels in Agusan del Sur and the rest of Caraga Region to surrender and return to their families and communities.

“We call on the remaining CNTs to bring their firearms and go down to surrender and return to the folds of the law. The door towards a peaceful life is always open for those who wish to peacefully surrender. Having said that, we will remain focused and enthusiastic on our mission to end local communist armed conflict in the soonest time possible in the Caraga region,” Centino said. (PNA)

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