DAVAO CITY – Simultaneous attacks by New People’s Army guerrillas on a police station and reinforcement troops resulted to the death of three police personnel and seven soldiers including a lieutenant.

As of 5:30pm Monday, the casualties also included two wounded PNP personnel and eight soldiers.

In an emailed statement to the media, Captain Ernest Carolina of the 10th Infantry Division Public Affairs Office of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) here said that the first incident happened at around 4:30 AM when some 50 NPA members from “Front 72”  clad in army camouflage uniforms and led by “Felix Amodia” under nomme de guerre “Jing” attacked the Matanao Municipal Police Station, Davao del Sur.

“The PNP personnel were able to open fire pre-empting the entry of the attacking NPA,” the military claimed.

The AFP also said some two hours later, they arrested nine “suspected” NPA members and killed two others when they engaged the guerillas.

Three hours later, the NPA detonated an explosive in Sitio Lahak, Barangay Asbang, Matanao, against reinforcement troops from the 39th Infantry Battalion.

The ambush against the army unit came a week after its other troops were ambushed by another unit of the NPA, the Mt. Apo Subregional Command, which injured four civilian medical personnel in Barangay Managa, Bansalan town, also in Davao del Sur.

The Communist Party of the Philippines affirmed an earlier apology issued by the NPA’s Southern Mindanao regional command regarding the March 2 incident.

According to the CPP, the personnel who carried out the ambush “detonated an explosive against a convoy of two 6×6 military trucks but shrapnel inadvertently hit a trailing ambulance” injuring the four.

The CPP said that “Red fighters failed to distinguish the ambulance as it did not blare its sirens and turned off its lights.”

The CPP said that it “is just for the NPA to shoulder the expenses to be incurred by the injured personnel of the PDRRMC as an immediate remedial measure” and that “succeeding investigation” will be carried out.

While the CPP  “reaffirm(s) the provisions of the Geneva Conventions which accord respect and protection under all circumstances to personnel exclusively performing medical duties”, it also scored  the AFP “for deliberately endangering the lives of civilian medical personnel when officers of the 39th Infantry Battalion concealed the presence of the ambulances by ordering that the sirens and lights be turned off as they traveled with a convoy of military trucks.”

“International humanitarian law requires that medical personnel who are to exclusively perform medical duties, whether civilian or military, must display distinctive and discernible emblems, making them identifiable even from a distance,” said the CPP.

The CPP said that officers of 39th IB “who ordered that the ambulance turn off its siren and lights must be held responsible for endangering the lives of the medical personnel on board” as it said that “such orders made the ambulance indistinguishable from the military trucks it was traveling with and exposed it to unnecessary hostile action.”

In a recent news report the AFP Spokesperson Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said that there were no “lapses on the part of the operating troops.”

The recent spate of NPA attacks in Davao del Sur seem to belie a declaration by Maj. Gen. Ariel Bernardo, commander of the 10th Infantry Division of the AFP in a press briefing last January that in Davao del Sur, along with the provinces of South Cotabato, Sarangani and Davao Oriental, Davao del Sur and Davao Occidental, the military has gained an upper hand and has already interrupted NPA operations. (John Rizle L. Saligumba/davaotoday.com)

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