ILOILO CITY – The death toll in the clash between New People’s Army rebels and government soldiers in Barangay Alimodias, Miagao, Iloilo last December 1 has risen to nine as the military on Friday continued to confirm and identify the fatalities.
Major General Benedict Arevalo, commanding officer of the 3rd Infantry Division (3ID), said the latest identified fatality was Joven Ceralvo, alias Lex, the commanding officer of the Southern Front (SF) operational command and at the same time deputy secretary of the SF Committee.
The 301st Infantry Brigade in a press statement earlier identified the eight fatalities with the help of former rebels and the Scene of the Crime Operation (SOCO) of the Philippine National Police (PNP).
They were Roger Pedro alias Lim/Gurang, from San Remigio, Antique; Leonard Taburete alias Tatang/Toms, and Liezel Tacuel alias Dayday/April/Jare, both from Tubungan; Gerly Tejeros alias Elay from Tigbauan; certain Inday/Jeboy from San Joaquin; and Rica Nudgara alias Amber from Miagao; Eugene Estopido Talibo alias Africk from Igbaras, all from Iloilo; and Juveniel Sandig alias Francis, with no indicated address.
Pedro, according to Arevalo, was the vice commander of the Suyak Platoon of Southern Front, Komiteng Rehiyon-Panay while Tejeros, wife of Ceralvo, served as an instructor of the SF.
The rest occupied various posts in their respective platoons.
“Our clearing and pursuit operations still continue as of now. We are still confirming reports of more death and wounded from their group,” Arevalo said in an interview.
He added that possibly the death count would increase to 16 or 17 and a dozen more could be wounded given the number of casualties.
The Army commander said that there were 70 rebels in the hideout when they launched an offensive after receiving reports of the NPA’s plan to “attack the nearby detachment and conduct extortion activities, especially to businessmen and political candidates.”
“They are planning a big hit for their offensive so they have something to brag about during their anniversary on Dec. 26,” Arevalo added.
The CPP is set to mark its 53rd founding anniversary this year.
“Let this be a lesson to them that they are not confronting Boy Scouts. The Armed Forces is a well-capable and a formidable force. Seventy armed men is not an easy opponent. We have to bring in all the might and fire power of the Armed Forces in these kinds of operations,” he said.
After the operation, the Army recovered assorted firearms, six anti-personnel mines (APMs), 14 backpacks, two commercial radios, five detonators, a generator set, four cell phones, electrical wires, assorted magazines, subversive documents, and other personal belongings.
Arevalo added that the message is for them to lay down their arms and surrender if they don’t want to get hurt or get killed in encounters.
Meanwhile, 301st Infantry commander B/Gen Marion R Sison, Commander has extended his deepest sympathies to the family of the dead rebels.
“Once again, we urge the remaining members of the CNTs (CPP-New People’s Army Terrorists) to go back to the government fold while you still have chance. We, your Army, are always willing to help you to live a peaceful life,” he said in a statement.
He added that the Philippine Army will assist the surrenderers to avail of the Enhanced-Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) for them to start a new life with their families.
The brigade commander also expressed his gratitude to residents for providing them with vital information.
The bodies of the slain rebels are currently in a funeral parlor in Miagao.
Their families will be given the chance to retrieve their cadavers, otherwise, they will be given to their respective local government units for proper burial.
The CPP-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines. (PNA)