The group of still undetermined number of armed persons which clashed with Philippine Army troops in Bilar at dawn on Tuesday was led by suspected high-ranking New People’s Army (NPA) commander Domingo “Cobra” Compoc.
This was confirmed by Col. Ignacio Madriaga, commander of the Philippine Army’s 302nd Infantry Brigade, to the Chronicle on Tuesday afternoon.
“Siya lang naman yung talagang monitored na umiikot diyan kasama yung security forces niya,” said Madriaga.
Compoc, a native of Barangay Dagohoy in Bilar, has three outstanding arrest warrants for murder, direct assault against a person in authority and rebellion. The government has offered a reward of P2.6 million for his capture, “dead or alive.”
According to Madriaga, Compoc was spotted by several concerned citizens as he was going around the Bilar hinterlands on days leading to the town’s Fiesta on Tuesday, urging old NPA comrades to rejoin the rebel group.
The residents reported Compoc’s sighting to authorities which led to the hour-long encounter between state security forces and the suspected NPA group in Barangay Campagao in Bilar.
“Feeling secure siya, but he found out na hindi pala, kasi ang mga nagsumbong sa kanya yung mga kababayan niya diyan sa Bilar na ayaw nila yung activities niya,” said Madriaga.
The Army has not yet disclosed whether there were casualties on both sides but unconfirmed information indicated that some of Compoc’s men were injured during the gun battle.
Authorities have also not confirmed the exact number of armed persons in Compoc’s group, although Madriaga noted that they found 14 hammocks near the clash site which may have been used by the rebels.
Meanwhile, military and police personnel continued their clearing operations and search for the armed persons who have managed to flee following the clash.
Last year, NPA rebels from Negros Island and Leyte reportedly entered Bohol to re-establish a stronghold in the province which has been considered as insurgency-free for over a decade.
Maj. Jose Pabon, executive officer of the Army’s 47th Infantry Battalion, during a meeting of the Provincial Board’s peace and order committee in July, 2017, said that the armed persons were reportedly spotted in San Miguel, Trinidad, Mabini and Maribojoc.
The suspected rebels were sighted as they asked for food from residents in said towns, Pabon said.
Based on intelligence reports, the armed persons arrived in Bohol early in June last year.
They were collecting “revolutionary taxes” from barangay captains and construction companies, added Pabon.
However, Pabon noted that they would only be able to fully confirm the group’s identity once government forces encounter the said armed persons.
Authorities have not yet confirmed whether the suspected rebels spotted last year were the same persons who clashed with government troops in Bilar. (Allen Doydora)