MANILA, Philippines – Communist insurgents on Saturday, July 6, vowed revenge after Philippine soldiers killed their regional spokesman along with 7 other rebels in the latest operation against the militants since the collapse of talks to end one of Asia’s longest running insurgencies.
The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) confirmed that one of the 8 rebels killed in the clash in Juban, Sorsogon, on July 4 was Frankie Joe Soriano alias Ka Greg Bañares, guerrilla spokesman for the rebel-infested Bicol peninsula.
Earlier, the military announced that a ranking leader of the communist movement by the name of Arnel Estiller alias Ka Ariston, reportedly the secretary of Larangan 2 of the Komited Probinsiya in Sorsogon, were among those killed in the encounter.
Military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Zagala denied the allegation, calling it an attempt to discredit the government forces.
“They were all armed and they fought back. There was a 35 minute exchange of fire,” he said.
While the military would have preferred capturing Bañares, his death would still be a blow to the guerrillas whose ranks have fallen to about 4,000 fighters, down from a peak of roughly 26,000 in the 1980s, Zagala said.
“He was influential in their propaganda. He was a key in their recruitment of those with legitimate problems into the war of the CPP against the government.”
Bañares had been one of the more visible guerrilla figures, frequently issuing statements and even posting on YouTube.
The CPP and the NPA have been fighting successive governments for 44 years, in a rebellion that has claimed at least 30,000 lives.
President Benigno Aquino III hoped to end the rebellion before his 6-year term expires in 2016, but the government said in April that peace talks had collapsed due to rebel demands, such as for the release of captured comrades.
In recent months, the communist rebels have launched more assaults, often targeting unarmed soldiers, police, and civilians. – Rappler.com