DAVAO CITY, Philippines — The New People’s Army owned up to the ambush of police officers in Bansalan town Davao del Sur.
Four police officers who were in a convoy to respond to a reported crime in Barangay Sibayan were ambushed by a 14-man squad of guerrilla fighters belonging to the Mt. Apo Subregional Operations Command around 7:00 am Wednesday, an NPA spokesman said.
In a statement released Friday night, Rigoberto Sanchez, spokesperson of the NPA Southern Mindanao Operations Command said the NPAs carried out an order “to exact revolutionary justice” against a certain Marlon Lomantas at 2:20 am whom they claimed is a former military man “turned active intelligence agent of the 39th IB and a known drug trader” in Barangay Sibayan.
Sanchez said the first police vehicle passed by the NPA ambush position site at 6:35 am.
“The NPA squad desisted from striking when it saw civilians riding in motorcycles were in close proximity to the moving PNP vehicle. The second police vehicle passed by subsequently. At 7:10 am, the NPA squad, positioned eight meters from the road, proceeded to ambush the passing mobile vehicle,” Sanchez said.
He said “after the initial five-second volley of gunshots, the NPA commander called for the enemy troops to surrender and lay down their arms.”
But he said the police “retaliated with numerous return of fire.”
He said it took the NPAs 10 minutes of exchange of fire before it approached the PNP mobile vehicle carting away two M16 rifles and two 9mm glock pistols.
The four personnel who were killed were Police Officer 1 Rolly Benelayo, PO1 Joe Narvaza, PO1 Saro Mangutara of the Bansalan Municipal Police Station and PO3 Jayden May Rabor of the Scene of the Crime Operatives in Digos City. Another police officer, PO3 Allen Arnado was wounded and was brought to a nearby hospital.
The Philippine National Police condemned the attack saying the “non-tactical police team” by nature of their functions are “non-combatants.”
Meanwhile, President Rodrigo Duterte said he lost respect for the rebels.
“I am sad also for the NPA, dili na lang ko masuko sa ilaha. Or nawad-an ko og pagtan-aw nga you don’t do that malice. Kung nakit-an nimo nga nagpatrolya diha, pero kung kanang nimo nga naay patay diri, murder, kabalo man sila nga moabot ang imbestigador (I am sad also for the NPA, I will not be mad at them. Or I lost my respect, you don’t do that malice. When you see them patrolling, but them responding to a crime scene, you know that investigators will be coming),” said Duterte.
“It was a well-laid trap,” he told reporters during his visit Thursday at the wake of two of the police officers killed.
“Ana nga naay patay, musulod gyud ang SOCO. Unfortunately, ang giigo ang mga taga-SOCO, ang SOCO is an agency under the police organization pero dili na sila combatants. They don’t bother to bring in mga baril,” he said.
But Sanchez said they see it as “a vain attempt to cover-up the fact that an armed PNP unit on offensive operation was effectively neutralized by a 14-man NPA unit.”
“Seizing the initiative as a matter of principle of guerrilla warfare, the NPA unit was able to induce the enemy into a well-laid ambush and attack the enemy’s weak force by the NPA’s relative superior force,”
War against the NPA
Duterte said while there are is no peace talks yet, he is giving a go signal to the police and the Armed Forces to wage a war against the NPAs.
“Wala pa namang peace talks, it’s totally absent. In the meantime, I would just also ask the armed forces and the police to go ahead and wage a war against them,” said Duterte.
He said he will allow the use of all available assets.
“I will allow the police and the military to use all available assets. Naa man tay bag-ong eroplano, mga jet, use them. Gamita ang mga rockets. Ug naay collateral damage, pasensya(We have a new planes, jets, use them. Use the rockets. If there are collateral damage, I’m sorry),” he said.
Efforts to resume peace talks
The president on March 4 said he is open to resume talks with the communists. On March 7, Duterte also confirmed that negotiators from the government and the NDFP are engaging in backchannel talks.
He also called for the release of all the prisoners held captive by the New People’s Army and to stop asking for revolutionary tax.
“Dapat nila i-release tanang police, army, taga-gobyerno. I-release nila. Ikaduha, dili sila mangayo ug revolutionary tax (That’s it, that’s part of it. They have to release all policemen, army, everyone from the government. They should release them all. Second, they should stop asking for revolutionary tax),” he said.
Meanwhile, the National Democratic of the Philippines has announced on February 17 that the NPA will be releasing the six prisoner as a gesture of support for the resumption of talks.
The backchannel talks aim to revive the terminated peace negotiations. Both parties have concluded three successful rounds of talks reaching milestones on substantive agenda that seek to end the armed conflict. (davaotoday.com)