NPA TO BLAME. "Lydia" (left) and "Paning", relatives of Juveniel Sandig alias "Francis", one of the nine Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army members killed in a recent military operation in Miagao, Iloilo, are shown after claiming his body on Saturday (Dec. 4, 2021). Paning blamed the communist terrorist group for the death of her brother, whom they had not seen for three years. (Contributed photo)

ILOILO CITY – Two Ilonggo families blamed the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) for the death of their relatives following a military operation in Barangay Alimodias, Miagao, Iloilo on Dec. 1.

“May those who recruited my brother die so they could no longer harm more children,” "Paning" (not her real name), elder sister of Juveniel Sandig alias "Francis", said in the local dialect on Sunday.

She accompanied her mother "Lydia" of Barangay Barangay Langka, San Joaquin, in claiming the cadaver of Juveniel from a funeral parlor in the said town on Saturday.

Lydia said her son was only 17 and they thought he was in school since he was enrolled in Grade 9.

She said as a house helper, she could not keep track of her son, adding that her husband only informed her that the boy was missing some three years ago.

“We only heard stories that he joined the (communist) movement. We could not find him no matter how hard we looked for him,” she said.

Paning, on the other hand, urged those who were deceived and recruited by the NPA to surrender and think of their future and their family that loves them.

“Hopefully, they get awakened. I pray to the Lord to guide them so they would surrender,” she added.

Meanwhile, alias "Eki", the mother of Roger Pedro of San Remigio, Antique, said their family has not seen him for the past 20 years since he asked permission to work when he was only 17 years old.

She said she was shocked when she was informed by the Philippine Army that he joined the local terrorist group.

She added that she never expected her eldest son would join the NPA because she was happy that he decided to look for work and help meet the needs of their family.

“I blamed those who recruited him. Why recruit my son? We didn’t even know where they met,” she said in the vernacular.

Nonetheless, Eki was thankful to the government that she found her son even if he was already lifeless.

“It pains me to see him. Even if he did not respect us, yet we will take care of him,” she added.

Sandig and Pedro were two of the nine members of the NPA's Southern Front, Komiteng Rehiyon-Panay who were killed in a gun battle. They were identified with the help of former rebels and Scene of the Crime Operation operatives of the Philippine National Police (PNP).

Brig. Gen. Marion R. Sison, commander of the Philippine Army's 301st Infantry Brigade (301st IBde), said as of Saturday, five bodies have been claimed by their families.

He said they would coordinate with the PNP on the release of the cadavers and concerned local government units in giving the slain rebels a decent burial.

“We are still awaiting others to claim (the remains of their relative),” he said.

The 301st IBde, through the 61st Infantry Battalion and the 31st Division Reconnaissance Company, stormed the rebels' hideout while the more or less 70 armed members of the CPP-NPA were conducting a meeting allegedly to plan a series of attacks against government forces.

Among their targets were the PNP detachment along the highway in Barangay Tiolas, San Joaquin, and the military patrol base in Barangay Pudpud, Sison said.

“Despite that, we were able to prevent, still we continue to be alert and will never be complacent, all of our patrol bases and detachment. We have coordinated it with our counterpart in the Philippine National Police,” he added.

The CPP-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.

The Anti-Terrorism Council also formally designated the National Democratic Front as a terrorist organization on June 23, 2021, citing it as “an integral and separate part” of the CPP-NPA that was created in April 1973. (PNA)