By Dominique Gabriel G. Bañaga
Police Regional Office-18 (PRO-18) confirmed Guihulngan City police chief, Police Superintendent Arnel Arpon, alongside five other police officers and a city councilor escort, were killed following a firefight yesterday with members of the New People’s Army (NPA).
According to PRO-18 spokesperson, Police Senior Inspector Armilyn Vargas, the five slain officers were Senior Police Officer 2 (SPO2) Mecasio Tabilon, SPO2 Chavic Agosto, SPO1 Jeseal Ancheta, Police Officer 2 (PO2) Alfredo Dunque, and PO2 Alvin Paul Bulandres.
The city councilor escort was identified as Michael Hamablot.
Vargas reported law enforcement received a call from Guihulngan City Councilor Edison Dela Rita around 9:45 a.m., saying he was being ambushed by 15 armed men in the city’s Barangay Magsaysay.
Upon arriving at the scene, Arpon and his team came under heavy fire at Sitio Mandi-e, in the said barangay.
Witnesses, however, claim there were around 50 armed men once Arpon’s convoy arrived.
Vargas added, three other cops were also wounded in the gun battle, identifying them as SPO4 Jerome Delara, PO2 Jorie Maribao, and PO3 Jordan Balderas.
The city councilor also suffered a wound to his head and is currently receiving treatment and is under police protection.
Meanwhile, in an interview with Aksyon Radyo-Bacolod, 303rd Infantry Brigade (303IB) commander, Colonel Eliezer Losañes, said Dela Rita was on an NPA hitlist.
He also noted, three civilians were killed in the firefight, however, Vargas said that is still being verified.
Following the ambush, both the Philippine Army and police initiated a hot-pursuit operation in the area to either capture or neutralize the suspected NPA members.
Arpon previously served as Sipalay City police chief before being reassigned under the Negros Oriental Police Provincial Office (NOrPPO)./DGB, WDJ