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CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines – Army troops killed the top leader of the New People’s Army (NPA) in Northern Mindanao as he and his companions were about to settle for the night in Gingoog, a small city in eastern Misamis Oriental near the Caraga region, the military said on Thursday, July 27.
Major General Jose Maria Cuerpo, commander of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division, said Dionisio Micabalo, alias Muling, was killed immediately when soldiers of the 58th Infantry Battalion surprised the rebels in Barangay Libertad in Gingoog City at around 5:50 pm on Wednesday, July 26.
Cuerpo said Micabalo was the only casualty in the firefight that lasted 20 minutes. He said troops were able to recover his firearm, an AK-47 selective-fire assault rifle, several magazines, and a .22 caliber rifle.
The remains of Micabalo were brought to a mortuary in Gingoog City where an autopsy was done by the PNP Scene of the Crime Operatives on Thursday.
“Micabalo was identified by his former comrades who had already surrendered. That confirmation is enough for us,” Cuerpo said.
The 61-year-old Micabalo was the secretary-general of the NPA’s North Central Mindanao Regional Committee, the highest-ranking communist rebel leader known in the region.
He also served as a spokesperson of the NPA in Northern Mindanao, the military said.
Colonel Christian Uy, commander of the Army’s 58th Infantry Battalion, said his troops had been on the trail of Micabalo for three months after they learned the rebel leader had moved to Gingoog City in Misamis Oriental from neighboring Bukidnon province where he used to lead NPA operations.
Uy said two sections of soldiers caught up with the rebels as they set up camp in the village of Libertad, some 600 meters from a highway.
“The soldiers told me they first saw two armed women and then spotted a lone rebel leaning on a coconut tree. Subsequently, my soldiers unleashed volleys of fire, prompting the rebels to return fire, resulting in a 20-minute gun battle,” Uy said.
With Micabalo’s dead, Cuerpo said Myrna Sularte, known as alias Ka Maria Malaya and the widow of the late NPA operations chief Jorge Madlos, is the last known remaining NPA leader still at large in Northern Mindanao. Jorge, who served as the NPA’s leader, was killed by Army troops in Bukidnon on October 29, 2021.
“After the dismantling of all seven guerrilla fronts under NCMRC since 2020, it is high time and an opportunity for those remaining NPA members to lay down their weapons,” Cuerpo said. – Rappler.com