FALLEN REBEL LEADER. A file photo of New People's Army (NPA) leader Ericson Acosta, who died in a clash with government troops in Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental on Wednesday (Nov. 30, 2022), was released by the Philippine Army's 303rd Infantry Battalion on Thursday (Dec. 1). According to the military, Acosta is the deputy secretary of the NPA's Komiteng Rehiyon-Negros Cebu Bohol Siquijor and the head of Political Unified Committee in the Visayas. (Photo courtesy of 303IBde, Philippine Army)

 

BACOLOD CITY – The death of New People's Army (NPA) leader Ericson Acosta in a clash with government troops in Kabankalan City on Wednesday is another "huge blow" to the communist-terrorists in Negros Island, an official of the Philippine Army said on Thursday.

"It will create a leadership vacuum," said Lt. Col. Van Donald Almonte, commander of 94th Infantry Battalion (94IB), whose unit conducted the operation together with the 47IB.

Acosta, 50, is the NPA's first deputy secretary for Komiteng Rehiyon-Negros, Cebu, Bohol and Siquijor (KR-NCBS) and head of the Political Unified Committee in the Visayas, according to the 94IB.

He is the husband of the late Kerima Tariman, then a top NPA leader in northern Negros, killed in an encounter with troops of 79th IB in Silay City in August 2021.

Acosta's companion, who also died in the encounter, has been identified as Joseph Jimenez, 52, staff of KR-NCBS Regional Organizing Division.

Also known as "Raffy" and "Fredo", Acosta led the attacks against the government troops in Himamaylan City on Oct. 8 and in Sipalay City on Nov. 24, where four soldiers died, the 94IB report said.

Along with Jimenez, he was also involved in extortion activities in Kabankalan City and had been targeting a sugar refinery in the area to give in to their demands, it added.

In a statement on Thursday, the 3rd Infantry Division dismissed the claim of the National Democratic Front (NDF)-Negros, the political wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA, that Acosta was their consultant for farmers in southern Negros.

"It's a propaganda ploy to fuel their deceptive narrative. It's nothing but a hollow, empty, and over abused propaganda line of the CPP-NPA-NDF," it added.

Legitimate encounter

The Philippine Army also maintained that the clash in Negros Occidental that resulted in the death of Acosta and Jimenez was a legitimate encounter.

"Based from the reports received from our ground forces, it was a legitimate encounter and pursuit operations that led to the death of the two CNTs (Communists New People's Army Terrorists)," Army spokesperson Col. Xerxes Trinidad said in a statement Thursday.

He also added that government troops will always abide by the rules of law and respect human rights and international humanitarian law during incidents of armed conflict. (with reports from Priam Nepomuceno/PNA)