By Dominique Gabriel G. Bañaga
One person was killed, while another was seriously wounded, following separate incidents allegedly perpetrated by members of the New People’s Army (NPA) in southern Negros Occidental, over the weekend.
Police identified the fatality as 51-year-old Jovanie Banista, a former commander of the Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Bongcayao Brigade (RPA-ABB) and resident of Sitio Ilan, Barangay Locotan, Kabankalan City.
The wounded, meanwhile, was not identified by police, although they confirmed he is ranked as a police inspector and a member of the elite Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF).
Candoni police chief, Police Senior Inspector Jaynick Bermudez, said a 30-minute gun battle ensued between the PNP-SAF and NPA members at the boundary of Barangay Gatuslao, Candoni and Barangay Manlucahok, Sipalay City around 8:35 a.m.
303rd Infantry Brigade (303 IB) commander, Colonel Eliezer Losañes, said the wounded police inspector was taken to a hospital in Bacolod City after sustaining a gunshot wound to the neck.
He added, 303 IB immediately reinforced the PNP-SAF in Candoni and recovered two M16 assault rifles.
Authorities also believe the NPA, which Losañes estimates numbered around 30, suffered casualties on their side as bloodstains were reportedly spotted at the encounter site.
Following the gun battle, Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office (NOPPO) director, Police Senior Superintendent Rodolfo Castil, Jr., said an alert status will be maintained for the southern part of the province, especially after being ordered by President Rodrigo Duterte to eliminate the NPA front in Negros.
Meanwhile, authorities believe Banista was gunned down by NPA rebels while on his way home around 12:30 p.m. Additionally, Kabankalan City police deputy, Police Senior Inspector Gerald Moya, claimed to have seen Banista aboard his motorcycle on the night of the incident.
The police deputy also confirmed Banista previously survived an attempt on his life in 2014./WDJ