By Dominique Gabriel G. Bañaga
Two soldiers were killed, while eight others were wounded, following an encounter early Saturday morning between government forces and suspected rebels in a mountainous area of Negros Occidental.
Philippine Army 303rd Infantry Brigade (303IB) commander, Brigadier General Eliezer Losañes, said around 60 New People’s Army (NPA) members clashed with Philippine Army 62nd Infantry Battalion (62IB) soldiers at Sitio Atubon, located in Kabankalan City’s Barangay Tan-awan, around 5:30 a.m.
According to Losañes, the military was conducting combat clearing operations ahead of today’s barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections.
Authorities identified the fatalities as Private First Class (PFC) Vicente Marcon and Sergeant Sandy Arevalo; while the wounded were identified as Privates (PVT) John Darule Delgado, Joven Taghap, Ryan Las Piñas; PFCs Kenneth Cerbo, Michael Besana, Angelito Bariga, Voltair Catamin; and Sergeant Niño Nabaunag.
Losañes noted, he is unable to determine if there were fatalities or injuries among the rebels, but added, the Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office (NOPPO) has already alerted hospitals in southern Negros to report if they receive patients with gunshot wounds.
Meanwhile, around 100 residents living near the encounter site have fled the area.
As of press time, Negros Occidental Commission on Elections election supervisor, Atty. Jessie Suarez, has yet to say if the clash will impact elections in the area.
Last week, 20 NPA rebels from the Mount Cansermon Command burned down heavy equipment and a bunker at a National Irrigation Administration dam project, claiming it was a threat to the locals./DGB, WDJ