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MANILA, Philippines – A young officer of the Philippine Army was killed in an alleged ambush by the New People’s Army (NPA) in Davao Oriental on Wednesday, February 1, only hours after the communist group terminated its ceasefire with the government. (READ: NPA ends ceasefire but says talks should continue)
The incident occurred even as the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) is not supposed to launch armed offensives until February 10, based on its declaration.
The Army 2nd Lieutenant belonged to the 67th Infantry Battalion (IB) operating in Davao Oriental, one of the units under the 10th Infantry Division (ID). His name was withheld pending notice to the soldier’s family.
He and fellow soldiers supposedly joined the police to check complaints against alleged extortionists at Sitio Paliwason, Barangay Lambog in Manay town when they were ambushed, according to Captain Ryan Batchar, 10th ID spokesperson.
They were ambushed at 1:45 pm on Wednesday, a few hours after the 10 am announcement by the NPA. “The police and soldiers went there to restore law and order,” said 10th Infantry Division spokesperson Captain Rhyan Batchar.
“Hindi naman nila sinusunod (They are not following their) declaration nila na (that it should start on) February 10. Bakit nila ginawa pa rin ‘yun (Why did they do that)? It was deliberate,” Batchar said.
Batchar said the army unit on the ground is preparing for pursuit operations against the NPA rebels involved.
The government has not terminated its ceasefire but Batchar said pursuit operations against the NPA rebels are legitimate because they already committed a crime – the murder of the soldier.
It’s a preview of the set-up under the proposed arrangement between the 2 groups that will take effect on February 10. The NPA will resume its offensive against the military that is supposed to keep its ceasefire.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, explaining the orders to the military, said troops will still run after NPA rebels if they are involved in lawless activities and will not hesitate to operate in areas that the rebel group claims to be under its control.
“Government security forces will continue to maintain peace and order and run after lawless elements whoever and wherever they are,” Lorenzana said.
“We emphasize that we do not recognize the NPA’s claims to areas which they believe are under their control and our forces are ready to defend themselves when attacked,” said Lorenzana.
This was the debate in the aftermath of the incident in Makilala, North Cotabato on January 23 that killed one communist rebel. It was the first firefight to disrupt the 5-month-old ceasefire. – Rappler.com