By: Reuters, Antonio L. Colina IV, & Mike U. Crismundo
Four members of the Philippine Security Group (PSG) were wounded in a firefight with dozens of New People’s Army (NPA) rebels disguised as soldiers at a checkpoint in Arakan, North Cotabato, the military said yesterday.
The attack is seen as another blow to a stuttering peace process between the government and National Democratic Front, the political arm of the communist rebels.
President Duterte was not in the region.
“Four of our troops in two vehicles were slightly wounded in the firefight,” PSG commander Brigadier-General Louie Dagoy told reporters, adding that the rebels fled.
Dagoy said the New People’s Army (NPA) guerillas opened fire on the presidential guards and were wearing soldiers’ uniforms.
The two-vehicle convoy was on its way to Cagayan de Oro before it encountered the rebels manning a checkpoint.
One of the vehicles was able to turn back and seek help, but the other one – a white Ford van with seven PSG soldiers – was trapped.
The armor of the bullet-proof van saved the occupants from harm as the rebels tried and failed to open it for almost two hours.
The encounter at the checkpoint came a day after Duterte requested both houses of Congress to extend martial law in Mindanao until the end of the year as security forces needed more time to deal with Islamist militants.
The attack also led to the death of Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unity (CAFGU) member Ben Padia while the rebels abducted Rogelio Mago Genon, 60, an asset of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG).
Eastern Mindanao Command (EMC) spokesperson Maj. Ezra Balagtey said wounded PSG were brought to German Doctors in Marilog but were immediately transferred to Camp Panacan Station Hospital in Felix Apolinario Naval Station in Davao City.
Meantime, rebels staged more attacks in separate locations when armed men raided a construction site in Surigao del Sur while another group of rebels assaulted a banana plantation in Surigao del Norte.
In Surigao City, 15 heavily armed rebels set on fire one back hoe (Volvo brand), one forklift and one multi-cab inside a construction firm in Sitio Bioborjan, Barangay Rizal.
The perpetrators also took two shotguns from the two security guards manning the construction compound though both security men were left unharmed as the rebels splintered into groups as they escaped.
The burned construction equipments were owned by the Mamsar Industrial Corporation who still could not determine the total amount of their damaged facility.
In Tago, rebels destroyed around eight hectares of fully-grown bananas by cutting most of the trees using bolos apart from burning six vehicles inside a banana plantation.
The damaged fully grown bananas is owned by the DOLE, Philippines, while the burned hauler trucks were owned by a contractor of the said banana company.
A military report from the field also said the perpetrators belonged to guerilla-Front Committee 19 of the CPP-NPA Northeastern Mindanao Regional Committee (NEMRC).