ARMY-NPA CLASH. Bloodstains are found on the route of withdrawal of Communist New People's Army rebels who clashed with troops of the 62nd Infantry Battalion in Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental on Oct. 12 and 13, 2022. The two skirmishes happened in Barangays Calupaan and Trinidad. (Photo courtesy of 62IB)

DUMAGUETE CITY – Troops of the 62nd Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army have clashed with members of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) rebels in two separate skirmishes in Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental.

Lt. Col. William Pesase, commanding officer of the 62IB, told the Philippine News Agency in an interview on Thursday that during the encounters, the communist rebels split into smaller groups to evade the troops as they fled toward different directions in the hinterlands of Guihulngan.

“We will pursue them relentlessly to prevent them from regrouping as they continue to harass residents in Guihulngan as part of their plan to regain their mass base,” Pesase said in mixed English and Filipino.

The first encounter took place around 4 p.m. Wednesday in Sitio Mansulokon in Barangay Calupaan, with a gunfight that lasted for about five minutes before the rebels, belonging to the Central Negros 1 of the NPA’s Komiteng Rehiyon Negros Cebu Bohol Siquijor (CN1 KR-NCBS), fled.

Hot pursuit operations by the government troops resulted in another encounter at 6 a.m. Thursday in Barangay Trinidad, although the firefight lasted briefly, for about two minutes, before the rebels scampered again in different directions, Pesase said.

Recovered from the second clash were one .45-caliber pistol with one magazine fully loaded with ammunition, one backpack, and personal belongings.

Pesase said one of them may have been wounded or killed based on bloodstains found on the rebels’ route of withdrawal.

This is the sixth encounter this year that took place in Guihulngan with the first one in Barangay Sandayao last January 15, the 62IB said.

The 62IB commanding officer said civilians provided the government troops with information on the presence of armed men in their communities.

Retaliatory attacks

Meanwhile, Pesase said they are expecting possible atrocities and extortion activities by the insurgents in their area of responsibility following the death of a top NPA leader in Negros, identified as Romeo Nanta but better known as Juanito Magbanua.

Nanta, the commanding officer of the Regional Operational Command of the Komiteng Rehiyon-Negros and spokesperson of the NPA’s Apolinario Gatmaitan Command, was killed in an encounter with 94th Infantry Battalion troops on Oct. 10 in Barangay Carabalan, Himamaylan in Negros Occidental.

Even though the NPAs in Himamaylan and Guihulngan are from different units, Pesase said they are expected to help each other as a “show of force,” and possibly carry out retaliatory attacks against the government.

He reiterated his call to the remaining members of the CN1, which he said was already “weakening” and with “dwindling members,” to surrender and avail of the government’s program for former rebels, such as the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program.

For his part, Brigadier General Inocencio Pasaporte, brigade commander of the 303rd Brigade, said in a statement they are proud of the "efforts and selfless dedication to service that you (62IB) have rendered."

"We know that you are always prepared and ready to protect the Negrenses against threat groups that endanger the well-being of the people in Central Negros,” he said.

“We will not stop denying their presence in the communities much more allow them to sow fear and terror to the peace-loving Guihulnganons who are fed-up with their more than five-decade-long atrocities much more with the Communists NPA terrorist presence,” Pasaporte said. (PNA)