Zamboanga Del Norte

Clash raises questions about NPA-free Zamboanga del Norte declaration

Gualberto Laput
Clash raises questions about NPA-free Zamboanga del Norte declaration
The Army’s 102nd Brigade downplays it as an encounter between soldiers and 'remnants' of 'defunct' guerrilla units of the New People's Army

DIPOLOG CITY, Philippines – Soldiers and communist rebels clashed again in a village in Zamboanga del Norte, barely a month after the capitol and the Provincial Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (PTF-ELCAC) declared the province insurgency-free.

The military said two suspected New People’s Army (NPA) rebels were killed during the encounter in the village of Midatag in Leon B. Postigo town on Thursday afternoon, May 12.

The encounter raised questions about the declaration of Zamboanga del Norte as an insurgency-free province, but the Army’s 102nd Brigade downplayed it as a clash between government troops and “remnants” of “defunct” guerrilla units under the NPA’s Western Mindanao Regional Party Committee (WMRPC).

Officials said the 30-minute gun battle resulted in the killing of Loreto Dagpin, commander of the main NPA regional guerrilla unit; and Rolando Maglasang, commander of a rebel front called “Big Beautiful Country” (BBC).

The Army said Dagpin and Maglasang were members of WMRPC’s executive committee operating in Western Mindanao, including Zamboanga del Norte.

The military said retreating rebels left behind several high-powered firearms, five backpacks, and other personal belongings.

Brigadier General Leonel Nicolas, the commander of the 102nd Brigade, told the PTF-ELCAC earlier, “We have no more guerrilla fronts or any entity in the province that is affecting our peace and security.”

Nicolas’ assurance prompted the task force and Zamboanga del Norte Governor Roberto Uy to declare the province insurgency-free on April 20.

But on Thursday, Nicolas said, “For several months, we have intensified our call for the remnants of these defunct guerrilla fronts to lay down their arms and return to the folds of the law, but unfortunately, they chose otherwise.”

Nicolas said the Thursday encounter was an offshoot of an earlier gunbattle, on election day, between government forces and rebels in the village of Tinuyop in Leon Postigo town. –

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