BUTUAN CITY—At least seven government troops—one soldier and six militiamen—were killed when New People’s Army (NPA) rebels raided an Army patrol base in Las Nieves, Agusan del Norte, police said Friday.
Chief Supt. Antonio Nañas, Caraga police chief, said the rebels managed to seize the patrol base in Barangay Lawan-lawan during a raid late Tuesday evening.
He said the soldiers and the militiamen manning the patrol base tried to repulse the advancing rebels but they were outnumbered.
He did not say how many soldiers and militiamen were manning the patrol base at that time but said the rebels numbered about 70.
A military source said during the attack, only one government soldier was instantly killed.
“The rebels took away the six militiamen and executed them later,” the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity for lack of authority to speak, said, adding that the bodies were recovered a few meters away from the detachment.
Nañas said the military’s 402nd Infantry Brigade and the police have sent troops to track down the fleeing rebels.
The NPA, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), has stepped up its campaign against the government after the collapse of the peace talks in 2004.
The National Democratic Front (NDF) pulled out of the Norwegian-brokered talks after it failed to convince the government to urge the United States to remove the communist movement from its list of terror groups.
Recently, the United States said it was willing to help in crushing the communist insurgency if asked to do so, but military chief Gen. Hermogenes Esperon said the Armed Forces of the Philippines has the capability to face the rebels.
The military has given itself until 2010 to defeat the communists.
In Davao City, Mayor Rodrigo Duterte said saber-rattling or a military campaign does not solve an issue like the communist insurgency.
Duterte, peace and order adviser to President Macapagal-Arroyo, said the government must again seriously consider talking peace with the NDF because violence can only be solved through peaceful means.
“I believe that the government must open all avenues with the New People’s Army,” he said.
The feisty mayor, who openly admits being friends with communist leaders, said the peace and security problem in the country, especially in Mindanao, will only get more complicated if the government uses violence to contain the insurgency.
Aside from pursuing talks with the communist rebels, Duterte said the government should also resume talking with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
Face the problem
“We have this fear but we don’t have to be paralyzed. We have to face the reality head-on and we will do everything, if not to prevent violence from erupting, to give justice. But what we have to do is to understand and talk to them. But if we will fail on this, law and order must prevail,” Duterte said.
The rebel offensive came amid the continued extrajudicial killings, many of whose victims are leftist activists. Human rights groups have counted 800 victims since Ms Arroyo came to power in 2002.