The New People’s Army- North Central Mindanao Region belied the claims of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) that the three soldiers killed in an encounter in Malaybalay, Bukidnon were unarmed.
In a statement sent to the media, Ka Allan Juanito, spokesperson of the NPA-NCMR, said that the deaths of Corporal Pat O. Non, Corporal Nino Christopher Talabor and Sergeant Owen Yee of the 8th Infantry Battalion were due to a legitimate encounter in line with the NPA’s policy of “active defense” before the scheduled lifting of the unilateral ceasefire on February 10.
February 1 incident
In the NPA’s version of the incident, at 5:21 p.m. on February 1, two Red fighters under the NPA-South Central Bukidnon flagged down the three soldiers onboard two motorcycles as they arrived at Sitio Kalib, Brgy. Kibalabag from Malaybalay City. “Two troopers made a move of pulling out their pistols, forcing the NPA squad positioned alongside the road to open fire,” Juanito said.
Capt. Joe Patrick Martinez, 4th Infantry Division spokesperson, said the soldiers were unarmed and were “murdered.”
On the contrary, the local NPA spokesperson said that three .45 pistols were seized from the soldiers, “Armscor issues with serial numbers 2052053, bb01224 and 1435922.”
They also denied that they took money from the soldiers. The AFP alleged that the NPA took the P12,000 subsistence allowance of the soldiers.
“The wallets of Sgt. Yee and Cpl. Talabor were never taken. Only the wallet with an ID card and documents of Cpl. Non was retrieved,” Juanito said.
He added that “the three corpses were not desecrated other than the gunshot wounds.”
The military claimed that the bodies sustained a total of 76 gunshot wounds. However, NDFP senior adviser Luis Jalandoni said in a TV interview that the NPA is “not likely to waste bullets.”
According to Juanito, the troops of the 8th IB had been encamped in Brgy. Kibalabag since October 26, as well as Brgy. Manalog since November 24.
He said that contrary to the claims of the AFP that they had been there to “deliver social services,” the so-called “peace and development” teams have been “interrogating civilians about the whereabouts of the NPA and scouring the forested areas of the barangay using civilians as guides.”
“For the whole duration of their stay, not even a single sack of cement was being delivered by them to the said barrios,” the local NPA spokesperson said. Juanito added that the soldiers have been “spreading decadent influence to the peace-loving residents like drinking sprees, gambling and pornography.”
According to the local NPA spokesperson, they had earlier “submitted to the ceasefire committee of the NDFP and furnished a copy to the GRP” the ceasefire violations committed by the 8th IB in the said villages, in furtherance of the peace talks.
However, the GRP today formally served the NDFP negotiating panel notice of the termination of the peace talks, upon orders of Pres. Rodrigo Duterte. Duterte visited the wake of the three soldiers the day after he announced the termination of the peace talks.
Under under existing agreements, the termination will only take effect 30 days after the formal notice has been served.
The local NPA command also expressed their condolences to the families of the three soldiers. “To the families, relatives and friends of the fallen soldiers, we offer our sincere condolences…It has been a consequence to Duterte’s unilateral ceasefire that AFP-PNP-CAFGU has since violated by invading the areas of the revolutionary movement. They suppress and hassle the livelihood and daily activities instead of bringing peace and development to the people of more than 500 barangays they [are] supposed to serve,” said Juanito.
In the statement issued by Communist Party of the Philippines’ spokesperson Jorge “Ka Oris” Madlos last February 1, all NPA units were given the order to go on active defense even before the lifting of the unilateral ceasefire declaration on February 10.
“They must counteract, frustrate and punish AFP-CAFGU-PNP interior patrol operations, AFP psywar operations under Oplan Kapayapaan, AFP units occupying barangays and communities and enemy armed offensives posing as anti-drug and anti-crime operations,” said Madlos.
Juanito reiterated that the killing of the three soldiers was a form of active defense, and that they never violated their own five-month ceasefire. “The sincerity of the revolutionary movement, especially by the NPA, to the peace negotiations should not be doubted,” he said.