NPA, army claim to have killed more in clash

Jun. 15, 2007

DAVAO CITY — So which side actually killed more people?

The war between the Philippine military and the communist New People’s Army in Southern Mindanao has spilled over from the battlefield to the media, with both sides claiming that, in an encounter last June 7 in Compostela Valley province, each killed more than what the other was willing to admit in public.

In a press conference on Thursday, the army claimed that at least nine members of the New People’s Army were killed during that clash in Monkayo town, Compostela Valley. Brig. Gen. Carlos Holganza, commanding general of the 1001st Infantry Brigade, said four of his men were killed.

But in a statement on June 9, Ka Roel Agustin II of the NPA’s Conrado Heredia Command in Southern Mindanao, said they may have killed as many as 15 soldiers. Agustin said only one NPA member was killed in the firefight.

In his press conference at the Task Force Davao Headquarters in Davao City, Holganza presented two witnesses who reported the supposed NPA casualties: Datu Carlos Duron, tribal leader of Barangay Pasian in Monkayo, and Danny Masalig, a brother of one of the NPA members killed.

Duron said that a “very reliable asset” confirmed the NPA deaths. He said it included a high-ranking NPA commander named Daryl Masalig, alyas “Commander Daryl.” My neighbor was asked to retrieve the body of Commander Daryl who was buried beside a large durian tree 300 meters away from the site of the encounter, Duron said.

Duron also said that some of the NPA corpses were buried while some were already decomposing.

The casualties, he said, were the result of a firefight that ensued when a platoon of soldiers under the 28th Infantry Battalion swooped down on a rebel encampment in that town.

Danny Masalig, meanwhile, confirmed the death of his brother Daryl, who holds the rank of “rebel commander” and asked for help in retrieving his brothers body.

Holganza said that Masalig and Duron debunked the NPA claim of inflicting 15 casualties among the army troops while suffering only one death. He said it is normal for the rebels to pad the casualty figures of the government side and reduce the army’s. Holganza also belied reports that it was a company-size army unit that engaged the NPA but rather a small platoon “who were outnumbered but still stood their ground.”

But in his statement, Agustin accused Holganza of “fabricating a tale” about what Agustin called an ambush staged by New People’s Army against the 28th Infantry Battalion. Holganza’s claims, he said, “only shows that, indeed, the AFP has claimed a patent on lying.”

Agustin said the army suffered casualties more than Holganza was willing to disclose to the public. “Accounts of eyewitnesses after the combat reveal that troop decimation have reached 15 dead as a result of the command-detonated explosive- triggered ambush,” Agustin said. “One CAFGU element was briefly taken as prisoner-of-war but was immediately released. This is nowhere near what Holganza describes as ‘over-running an NPA camp’ nor a ‘military operation based on a tip by civilians.”

Agustin continued: “Notwithstanding the battlefield failures of it’s Oplan Bantay Laya II anti-people counterrevolutionary campaign, top AFP officers still (have) the audacity to fool the public by making false claims so as to conceal the wave upon wave of defeat they have suffered in the political and military battlefields.”

“Suffice it to say that in the aftermath of this recent NPA tactical offensive, Holganza was a pitiful sight when he lied through his teeth as he was saying a mouthful just to smokescreen the truth.”

Agustin claimed that days before the ambush in Km. 56, Brgy. Rizal, Monkayo, Compostela Valley, the 28th IB was already conducting a military operation where various units of the armly and the CAFGU were utilized.

“That a 56-man undersized company, which formed part of several columns used in said military operation already in a full-offensive mode, was hit and put in a defensive position through an NPA ambush tells us that AFP military superiority cannot stand up to and becomes ineffective in facing a revolutionary army engaged in guerrilla warfare in the framework of a protracted people’s war,” Agustin said.

He said the NPA, which he claimed was “supported and cherished by the oppressed and exploited people,” has a “wide and deep mass base.”

“When a huge full-combat enemy column is enticed to go deep inside guerrilla territory where the physical and social terrain is favorable to the people’s army and allowed to be lulled by their numerical superiority despite the animosity they get from the masses – the factors that they shall be outwitted and out-maneuvered multiply several-fold,” Agustin said.

It said the NPA ambush “was a punishment” on the army. “The atrocities and abuses committed by the 28th IB against the people of Compostela Valley have piled up that the revolutionary masses have long clamored for a strong punishment on these real terrorists and criminals in uniform. At our own bidding, more shall be forthcoming,” Agustin said.

Finally, Agustin said, “we take this occasion to publicly honor the revolutionary contributions of one Red fighter martyred and offer the four high-powered rifles (2 M14 and 2 M16) seized as a fitting tribute to his martyrdom.” (, with a report from PIA)

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