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BACOLOD CITY, Philippines – The 3rd Infantry Division Public Affairs Office on Sunday, October 1 said the secretary or head of the New People’s Army (NPA) Southern Front-Komiteng Rehiyon-Panay was one of three rebels killed on September 29 in Leon town, Iloilo province.
Lt. Col. J-Jay Javine, public affairs chief of the division said the family of Azucena Churesca Rivera, also known as Rebecca Alifaro or alias Jing has claimed her remains.
The army said Rivera and her companions, Jimmy Macuna and Gerly Tejeros, were killed in a clash along the highland border of Leon.
An uncle has identified Macuna, originally from Sibalom, Antique. Relatives of Tejeros, a native of Iloilo province, have also confirmed his identity.
Javines said Tejeros was a medic and education officer of the regional committee while Macuna was a member of a guerrilla platoon.
The military is processing documents on the slain rebels preparatory to their release to kin.
Rivera’s family, from Cabatuan, Iloilo, said she joined the communist rebellion in the 1980s.
The rebel leader, according to Javines, faced charges of violation of the International Humanitarian Law and the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020. A case for attempted murder had also been filed against her, said the military officer.
Western Visayas military officers said the Leon guerrilla deaths show how persistent government operations have placed the local leaders of Asia’s longest-running insurgency on the defensive.
The Iloilo clash followed the surrender of 12 alleged Northern Negros Front (NNF) guerrillas, including a man identified by the military as the secretary and commanding officer of the front.
The surrender of alias Ebyong effectively dismantles the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) NPA northern front in Negros, the country’s fourth largest island, according to Lt. Col. Arnel Calaoagan, commander of the Philippine Army’s 79th Infantry Battalion (IB).
Local rebels have not yet replied to the military’s claim.
The military has described the surrenderers as squad leaders and residents of Escalante, Sagay, and San Carlos cities and the towns of Toboso and Calatrava.
Military officials are processing the benefits due them under the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (ECLIP).
Capt. Dan Carlo Samoza, civil-military operations officer of 79IB, said the rebels already received some cash assistance and sacks of rice from local government units, the military, and the local police Special Action Force.
The reported killings of Negros rebels in clashes have stirred controversy. A tricycle driver’s family said Ruben Gaitan was just trying to earn a living when he was killed on September 21 in Sitio Lubi, Barangay Tabugon, Kabankalan City.
Ka Maoche Legislador, the new spokesperson of the Apolinario Gatmaitan – Negros Island Regional Operational Command claimed all six slain persons were non-combatants.
Aside from Gaitan, those killed were Bobby Pedro or Ka Rekoy, Mario Mullon or Ka Goring, and Janice Flores or Ka Joyce, medical personnel of the NPA; Alejo Delos Reyes or Ka Bravo and his wife Melissa Dela Peña or Ka Diane, were reportedly on pregnancy leave.
The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) -Negros Occidental chief Vincent Parra told Rappler their independent probe starts this week.
The CHR announced its move after several groups and individuals, including San Carlos City Bishop Gerardo Alminiza, urged a probe into the killings.
Parra said the CHR will coordinate with the Kabankalan City Component Police Station and the Army’s 47th Infantry Battalion to ask for official records on the slain individuals, including a battle report.
“We are confident, and we firmly believe that the said encounter was a legitimate one. We are open, and we welcome any inquiry to this effect by any independent party, as the result of the investigation will eventually clear and vindicate us from various allegations of human rights violations whatsoever,” Javines said.
The military said the slain rebels were members of the Sandatahang Yunit Propaganda (SYP) Platoon, South-Western Front (SWF), Komiteng Rehiyon-Negros, Cebu, Bohol, Siquijor (KR-NCBS) operating in the towns of Cauayan, Hinobaan, Ilog Candoni and the cities Kabankalan and Sipalay.
With the deaths of the six, authorities claimed the front membership was down to eight active members.
The military has made similar claims before only to face new rebel offensives. – Rappler.com