The Philippine Army (PA) continued its intensified manhunt for at least two suspected assassins of the New People’s Army (NPA) who gunned down a farmer and engaged state forces in a shootout in Trinidad town last week.
First Lt. Grace Remonde, spokesperson of the PA’s 47th Infantry Battalion, on Friday said the rebels who are believed to be members of the NPA’s SPARU (Special Partisan Unit) hit squad are likely to still be in Trinidad.
Soldiers of the 47th IB engaged the three-man hit squad in a gunfight in Barangay San Vicente on June 27, leaving one rebel dead. The two other communist guerillas were able to flee but one of them was believed to have been wounded.
“Wa pa nato na neutralize ang nabilin. Pero naa pa atong tropa didto sa area…Maoy among duda [naa pa] kay nagduda mi na wounded tong isa adto mao atong gi atang-atangan og aha nila gitago,” said Remonde.
The Army official admitted that they were having difficulty in flushing out the gunmen due to widespread support for the NPA in the area through their alleged legal fronts.
“Galisod pa ron kay baga kaayo ilang masa diha sa TTIFA [Trinidad Talibon Integrated Farmers Association] unya di baya ta pwede mang ransack,” said Remonde.
Remonde alleged that TTIFA members are likely harboring the suspects but state forces are only limited to conducting monitoring operations as they are not allowed to enter houses without warrants.
“Kadtong TTIFA kahibalo naman gyud ta na solido gyud na sila na masa. Nagtuo gyud mi na ila gyung gitaguan,” she added.
On June 27, a shootout between the 47th IB and the NPA hit squad erupted at past 9 p.m. in Barangay Banlasan, Trinidad.
The encounter ensued when soldiers responded to a report on the killing of one Ruel Quizon, a farmer, inside his residence in Purok Annex, Barangay San Vicente at past 7:30 p.m. on the same day.
The gun battle had gone on for about 10 minutes when one of the rebels who was believed to have been their getaway driver was shot dead and the remaining two started to flee.
While the state troopers pursued the retreating NPA members, one of the rebels threw a grenade resulting in the injury of one PA soldier who was hit by a shrapnel.
Remonde said the Army found at the clash site a caliber .45 pistol, one hand grenade, two magazines with live ammunitions, one BaoFeng radio, one backpack with personal belongings, one Bajaj Motorcycle and subversive documents. (R. Tutas)