Duterte security aides hurt in clash with communist rebels

Pia Ranada
Duterte security aides hurt in clash with communist rebels
(UPDATED) The encounter is triggered by the discovery of 50 suspected communist rebels posing as soldiers manning a fake military checkpoint

MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) – Several members of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) were wounded in a firefight with suspected members of the New People’s Army (NPA) in North Cotabato on Wednesday, July 19.

The encounter occurred around 6 am on Wednesday in Arakan, North Cotabato. 

A PSG convoy composed of two vehicles was headed to Cagayan de Oro from Camp Panacan in Davao City when the presidential security aides noticed more than 50 armed men manning a checkpoint in Arakan, said PSG spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Michael Aquino.

The PSG realized it was not a legitimate military checkpoint, though the armed men were wearing military uniforms. They began exchanging shots.

According to Eastern Mindanao Spokesperson Major Ezra Balagtey, 5 PSG members were wounded in the “brief” firefight.

The 5 are:

  • SSg Arniel Matunhay
  • Sgt Gerry Torsar
  • Cpl Rodel Ledesma
  • Cpl Ayam Alia
  • SSg Lisondra

After the encounter, the NPA rebels fled toward an unknown direction, but not before abducting a 60-year-old man, according to EastMinCom. They were pursued by members of Joint Task Force Haribon.

At around 9 am, military personnel and Citizen Armed Force Geographical Units (CAFGUs) encountered some of the fleeing NPA rebels. The chase resulted in the death of one rebel.

The injured PSG members were treated at German Doctors Hospital in Buda, Davao City and are being evacuated to Cagayan de Oro. 

Aquino explained the PSG convoy’s travel to Cagayan de Oro as “normal administrative movement for coordination.”

Balagtey said they were preparing to preposition there for Duterte’s visit to military camps in the area.

A police report, meanwhile, puts the number of armed men who were manning the checkpoint at around 100. The report, as well as Aquino, said the armed men were NPA members.

PSG Commander General Lope Dagoy said the encounter will not affect President Rodrigo Duterte’s future activities.

“No effect. Life must go on. So his events, activities will push through if they are in his schedule,” said the PSG chief. – Rappler.com

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.