A Philippine Army (PA) soldier and an alleged rebel were killed in a clash between government forces and a suspected communist terrorist group in a remote village in Bilar on Saturday morning.
First Lieutenant Elma Grace Remonde, civil military officer of the PA’s 47th Infantry Battalion (IB), said that a platoon from the battalion were conducting routine patrols when they encountered the suspected New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in the boundary between Barangay Cambigsi and Barangay Cansumbol.
The firefight erupted at past 9 a.m. and lasted for about 30 minutes.
According to Remonde, the about 15 suspected rebels were likely armed with both long and short firearms based on the gunshots heard at the clash site.
However, government troops only recovered a .357 revolver and a .38 revolver near the slain alleged rebel’s remains.
Remonde said that they also found subversive documents, cooking utensils, clothes, an identification card and other personal belongings at the site.
Authorities identified the fallen soldier as Cpl. Jerald Villanueva, but police are still trying to identify the slain gunman.
While the armed men were not officially tagged as NPA members, Remonde did not discount the possibility that the gunmen were rebel stragglers who have fled from Negros Island to Bohol to seek refuge.
The two-province island of Negros has been the center of the government’s efforts to crush communist insurgency.
Compoc’s men, again?
Members of the group of suspected high-ranking NPA commander and Bilar native Domingo “Cobra” Compoc could have also been the ones who clashed with government forces, said Remonde.
Compoc who has a P2.6-million bounty on his head was believed to have been leading armed men who figured in two casualty-free clashes with government forces in Batuan and Bilar in 2019 and 2018, respectively.
Brigadier Gen. Ignacio Madriaga, who was then the highest-ranking Army official in Bohol, said after the 2018 clash in Campagao, Bilar that Compoc and his security forces were the only lawless elements monitored to be moving around in the area.
However, the recent skirmish in Cambigsi-Cansumbol, Bilar continued to be investigated with both the Army and the police still not able to confirm if the armed men were indeed leftist guerrillas.
Pursuit operations meanwhile are ongoing against the armed group.
Bilar police chief Lt. Ramon Rulona also said that the armed men were likely to be NPA rebels but could not confirm yet.
According to Rulona, blocking forces and checkpoints have been set up in Bilar and surrounding towns as part of efforts to flush out the fleeing alleged rebels.
“Sa pagkakaron ang kapolisan nato, ang uban nag-conduct og checkpoint, naa puy uban nag blocking force sa mga possible exit sa pikas na tropa,” he said.