A ranking leader of a New People’s Army (NPA) unit operating in the hills of Sarangani and Davao del Sur provinces was reportedly killed in an encounter with government troops in an upland village in Alabel town in Sarangani on Monday.
Lt. Col. Felix Ronnie Babac, commander of the Army’s 73rd Infantry Battalion, said that NPA commander Tolentino Bariquit alias Ka Brigol was among the six rebels who were killed in the clash in Sitio Tugal, Barangay Datal Anggas in Alabel at 8am on Monday.
There were no recorded casualties on the government side.
Ka Brigol headed the NPA’s Front 71’s “Platoon Mazda” and previously led the Front 74 of the rebel group’s Far South Mindanao Regional Revolutionary Committee.
The official described the slain NPA leader as in his early 50s and among the active commanders of NPA units operating in the hinterland villages of Alabel, Glan, and Malapatan towns in Sarangani and Magsaysay town in Davao del Sur.
“We were able to confirm his identity based on the testimonies of local residents,” Babac said in a radio interview.
He said the five other fatalities were name by residents as aliases JM, Mark, Lieutenant, Jonas, and Monel.
Recovered from the encounter site were some 20 back packs owned by the rebels and nine high-powered firearms composed of six Armalite rifles, two Ak-47 rifles, and one “baby Armalite” rifle, he said.
Babac said their troops were conducting a peace and development outreach activity in the village on Monday when they received reports that a group of NPA rebels had encamped near the area.
He said local residents, who were mainly composed of poor B’laan tribal folks, complained that the group had been regularly extorting food supplies and other items from them.
Upon reaching the site, he said the rebels immediately fired at their troops that resulted in a heavy firefight.
The official said the rebels, who were estimated at around 30 heavily-armed members, later withdrew from the scene toward the direction of the Sarangani-Davao del Sur boundary.
“Our troops actually overrun a temporary encampment of the NPA unit as a result of the operation,” he said.
Babac said that aside from the slain NPA rebels, they were confirming reports that a number of them were also wounded during the encounter.
He said their troops who were conducting clearing operations in the area on Monday night confirmed that there were heavy bloodstains at the withdrawal route of the rebels.
Babac said there were no reported evacuations from among local residents as a result of the Monday encounter.
He said they have sent additional troops to the area to secure the residents and continue with their peace and development activities.