Manila: A spike in communist rebel attacks in various areas of Southern Luzon on Tuesday left five government troopers dead and six others wounded, including a junior police official.
The attacks occurred just weeks before the May 9 general elections.
According to military reports, an Army corporal and four government militiamen were killed following an encounter with the New Peoples Army (NPA) in the village of Haan in Oriental Mindoro at around 10.30am on Tuesday.
Lieutenant Colonel Rodolfo Gesim, 4th Infantry Battalion Commander, said troops were conducting combat operations after the death of a village council member a few days ago when NPA rebels pounced on them.
Among the fatalities were Cpl Roland Bernal, and four militia members: Fulgencio Rolando, Christer Gadon, Garry Galindez and Ernesto Malubay.
According to Gesim, most of the fatalities and injured were due to landmines laid strategically by NPA along the path of the pursuing government forces.
The armed forces’ Southern Luzon Command said the attackers were part the NPA group that attacked the Paluan Municipal Police Station in Occidental Mindoro in November 2014.
At about the same time that the attack was carried out by NPA in Mindoro, several explosions occurred further south in Masbate province.
Two policemen including the Batuan village police chief, Senior Inspector Aldrin Rosales, and senior police officer Amado Abiola were wounded in the attacks.
Colonel Fernando Trinidad, 903rd Infantry Brigade Commander, said the first explosion was reported at 4am in the village of Miaga in Uson town; the second explosion was at 5am in Tunga village in Esperanza; and the third blast was at 7.10am in Loving Forest Memorial Garden alongside of National Highway in Malinta village.
Similar blasts, caused by Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), took place alongside the National Highway in Tabuc village in Burgos on Ticao Island, Masbate, and in Crossing and Burna Suerte villages.
According to Southern Luzon Command chief, Lieutenant General Ricardo Visaya, the insurgents are trying to show that they are still a force to reckon with.
“The NPA is a diminishing group in Southern Luzon. As such, they resort to terror acts like these IED explosions to project that they are still a strong force,” he said.
The attacks likewise occurred ahead of the May 9 general elections.
During election period, NPA takes advantage of the situation by raising funds for the insurgency by demanding “revolutionary taxes” from politicians as well as businesses.
Visaya said that at present there are only 36 NPA members are being hunted by Southern Luzon Command units in Masbate Province.
Forty-six years into the insurgency, the NPA and the Communist Party of the Philippines are nowhere near their goal of achieving a strategic stalemate with the government.