Former rebel turned soldier killed by NPA

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – A former New People's Army (NPA) rebel turned soldier was ironically killed by members of the NPA while another soldier was wounded during an encounter in the Balatucan Mountain Range on Thursday, July 25.

Killed in action was Army Corporal Fermin Lindahay, a Higaonon who was formerly an NPA rebel between 2004 to 2006. Lindahay surrendered and joined the Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit- Active Auxillary (CAA) in 2006 till 2011, before joining the regular armed forces unit.

58th Infantry Battalion commander Lieutenant Colonel Roy Anthony Derilo said the encounter took place in in Sitio Lantad after residents in the Indigenous Cultural Community reported sighting NPA rebels.

"An initial encounter took placed on July 25, and a wounded NPA was left behind by his comrades surrendered to our troops with his M16A1 rifle, we immediately gave him first aid and is now being evacuated" Derilo said.

The information was disclosed on Saturday, July 27, with the name of the wounded and the rebel soldier withheld.

Sitio Lantad is one of the strongholds of the Communist Party Of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the NPA, in the 1980s and 2000s. It is also where the first shadow government of the CPP-NPA in Mindanao was established. It was declared as free from insurgency in 2010 after a series of government projects aimed at ending insurgency, but is seeing activity once more.

"Our Indigenous People (IP) are peace loving people, however the NPAs are radicalizing them to recruit their children as child warriors and turning Indigenous Cultural Communities (ICC) into a guerilla base," Derilo added.

"That IP soldier who died in the battle was from Mt Balatucan, He was recruited and joined the NPA but later surendered to become a soldier having realized the deception and exploitation of tribal communities by the CPP-NPA. He has been wanting to liberate his tribal community from the manipulation of the CPP-NPA cadres" said Brigadier General Edgardo De Leon, Commander of Army's 403rd Brigade.

"This is the reason why tribal leaders have been asking for our presence to defend their AD (ancestral domain) from intrusion of radical cadres from the lowlands," De Leon said.

"Mt Balatucan is considered a sacred ground by the indigenous people, however since 1980s, the NPAs turned the area into their hideout for training and burial site of fellow NPAs they killed as part of their internal purging (Kampanyan Ahos). That area has been liberated by 58IB since 2018. The NPAs want to recover the mountain lair for its strategic importance in their extortion of businesses in towns surrounding Balatucan. But we will continue to defend the AD and protect our ICC," De Leon added.

"Lindahay and the other wounded soldier are heroes of Mt Balatucan. They have sacrificed in defense of our indigenous peoples which is the living heritage of this nation," 403rd Infantry Brigade spokesman Captain Ryan Layug went on to say. –