Friday, June 7, 2013

Clash mars school opening in ComVal

From the Website of INQUIRER

Clash mars school opening in ComVal

Philippine Daily Inquirer
10:08 pm | Monday, June 3rd, 2013
SOLDIERS unload from an Army truck the body of a suspected rebel slain in a clash between government troops and the New People’s Army in Tubo-tubo, Monkayo, Compostela Valley, on Monday. FRINSTON LIM/INQUIRER MINDANAO
MONKAYO, Compostela Valley—What was supposed to be an exciting first day of school for pupils and parents in Tubo-tubo village here turned into a nightmarish scene as a deadly clash between government troops and suspected communist rebels erupted early on Monday, authorities said. 

Distraught parents rushed to the premises of Tubo-tubo Elementary School in Tubo-tubo village and grabbed their terrified children, as soldiers and New People’s Army (NPA) rebels exchanged fire on a hill some 2 kilometers away, according to Sozonte Puedan, principal of the 700-student elementary school. 
A young male rebel, aged between 16 to 20, was the lone fatality while two government troops, Pfc. Junrey Pioch and militiaman Sergio Ybañez, suffered nonlife-threatening wounds as the two sides fought for over an hour, Senior Superintendent Camilo Cascolan, Compostela Valley police chief, said. 

“Parents came to the school looking for their children, who had come as early as 6 a.m., as the fighting raged and loud explosions from rockets fired by Army helicopters could be heard from here,” said Puedan. “Most of the parents had become very terrified, so we had to let them fetch the children.”

Pacita Baluis, a Grade 4 teacher, said the village became on edge as the military launched air strikes, with two MG-520 helicopter gunships firing rockets at the suspected position of the rebels in Purok 9, Tubo-tubo. 

The firefight was a result of a four-day operation by troops from the Army’s 25th Infantry Battalion (IB) and the 1001st Division Recon Company against a group of rebels numbering about 30 from the NPA’s Front 25 and led by a certain Commander Ade, said Lt. Col. Cesar Molina, 25th IB commander. 

Molina said the fighting was centered in the middle of an oil palm plantation on a hill some 2 km from the village proper. 

“We had received reports about a group of armed men and women holing up there, possibly preparing for their extortion activities, so we conducted an operation and this is now the result,” Lt. Ernest Carolina, 25th IB civil military operations chief, said. 

Carolina said he suspected the said NPA group was behind the spate of harassment and extortion activities against civilians and small businesses in Monkayo and the nearby town of Compostela, after communist insurgents were also tagged as behind the kidnapping of a lumber trader and five others in Monkayo. 

Military and police officials have linked the abduction to the victims’ alleged refusal to pay up to the NPA’s so-called revolutionary tax. 

Betty Dionisio, a resident of Purok 8, returned to the school minutes after she had accompanied her two grandchildren, who are in Grade 1 and kindergarten, respectively, as the firing over the distant hill persisted. 

“I had trouble locating the children and was very worried because my husband was still in our hut guarding our farm animals and there were already loud explosions from the hill,” the 52-year-old farmer told the Inquirer. She eventually found her two grandchildren and took them to the village center. 

At least three families near the site of the incident descended to the village proper for safety. 

Molina said pursuit operations were launched at the fleeing rebels. 

Aside from the body of the slain rebel, soldiers also recovered an M-16 rifle, rounds of ammunition, a green NPA shirt, communication and tracking equipment, and a detonating cord from an improvised explosive. Frinston L. Lim, Inquirer Mindanao




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