There are only nine armed rebels left in their dying cause under the Communist Party of the Phil./New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) – running for survival in the hinterland areas of Balilihan and Batuan.
Some seven members of the group under Domingo Compoc alias “Kumander Cobra” were almost captured when they were spotted by troopers of the Philippine Army in barangay Hanopol, Balilihan late afternoon last Thursday.
Major Jessie Batiller, civil-military operations head of the Philippine Army told the Chronicle that acting upon a piece of A-1 information from a resident, the troopers rushed to the hinterland Sitio Lusad, Purok 3 in Hanopol Norte in Balilihan town.
A 10-minute exchange of gunfire with the government troops forced the rebels to leave their temporary encampment in Balilihan.
Seized after the encounter was two hand grenades, a rifle grenade, and a magazine of AK47 with live ammunition.
There was no casualty on either side.
Meanwhile, Gov. Aris Aumentado who visited the evacuees confirmed an intelligence report that there are only about nine of the group left amidst difficulty on how they can feed themselves in the hinterland barangays.
He said the group of “Kumander Cobra” is very much dwindling in numbers even as he revealed that one of the remaining rebels is the son of Kumander Cobra
The governor declined to comment on reports of some feelers on the impending surrender of the rebel group’s head.
30 FAMILIES EVACUATED
At least 30 families in Barangay Hanapol Norte, Balilihan were evacuated after the first armed encounter between state forces and rebels in the province’s first district in recent years.
According to Hanapol Barangay Captain Teodico Mancha, some residents who were evacuated returned to their homes as of yesterday morning.
Some evacuees stayed at Mancha’s house while others were accommodated by residents living near the barangay hall.
“Mo lapas 32 ka pamilya ang mga namakwit unya ang uban tua sa kasikbit na barangay sa Catigbian. Ang uban naa sa kilid-kilid sa barangay hall, dinhi pod sa akong balay,” said Mancha.
The residents were directed to stay near the barangay hall while state troopers continued to conduct clearing operations at the clash site.
Meanwhile, police were deployed to secure the barangay hall and surrounding areas.
“Ang police miingon namo na dili sa pabalikon sa area kay dili pa cleared. Maghuwat ra pod ang mga police kung unsa ang update sa Army,” he added.
According to Mancha, prior to the clash, there had been no previous reports indicating that rebels have been spotted in the village.
“Mura’g taod-taod na jud pod mi na wa miy nadungog na naay mga taga walhong grupo na nangari sa among barangay,” he said.
For his part, Bohol Provincial Police Office (BPPO) spokesperson Lt. Col. Joseph Berondo confirmed that the armed men were members of the Communist Party of the Philippines’ armed wing.
According to Berondo, the 47th Infantry Battalion and the BPPO continued to pursue the rebels and conduct clearing operations at the clash site.
This was the first reported clash between state forces and NPA rebels in the first district and the closest to the provincial capital of Tagbilaran City in at least a decade.
The province of Bohol, a former hotbed for communist guerilla activities, has been considered insurgency-free since 2010.
However, sporadic clashes started to erupt in 2019 but these were confined to the hinterlands of the third district, particularly Bilar and Batuan.
In December 2022, Army troops and NPA rebels clashed also for the first time in the second district town of San Isidro. (A. Doydora)