Nine of the 10 communist New People’s Army (NPA) rebels who died during Sunday’s running gun battle with government forces were laid to rest Wednesday afternoon (May 14) in a public cemetery in Gingoog City.
Ten NPA rebels were killed in a series of clashes that started Sunday along the border of the Agusan del Norte and Misamis Oriental provinces, particularly in Sitio Likudon, Barangay Kamanikan, Gingoog City.
The 10 cadavers were recovered and brought to Gingoog City early morning Tuesday (May 12).
Lt. Col. Francisco Molina Jr. commander of the Army’s 23rd Infantry Battalion, told Philippine News Agency on Thursday (May 14) that the decision to bury the dead NPA combatants was finalized after no families showed up to claim the bodies.
Molina said only one casualty, identified as Gary Labial, was claimed by a cousin. Labial was buried by his relatives in Barangay Diongan, Gingoog City.
Of the nine dead NPA combatants, eight were males while two were females.
Molina said the initial process of identifying the identities of the nine NPA casualties has already started, adding they are still counterchecking the information gathered on their identities.
“We are calling the public to help the Army in the process of identification. Anyone who has knowledge or may know the individuals may come to our headquarters,” Molina said.
“We also recovered identification cards (IDs) and other personal belongings that might help in the process of determining their true identities,” he added.
He said among the IDs recovered are the Philhealth ID of a certain Rio Amor Abquina Yuson and the Barangay ID of a certain Gladys Joy Hiponia.
“We are requesting all concerned to cooperate for the speedy identification of the cadavers,” Molina said.
Three former rebels were also asked by the Army to help in the identification of the dead bodies Tuesday. Initially, military officials said three former rebels identified two of the cadavers as the prominent leaders of Guerrilla Front 4-A (GF 4-A) of the NPA’s North Central Mindanao Regional Committee.
In an interview Thursday (May 14), the three ex-NPA rebels said among those killed Sunday were Paquito Namatindong, the platoon leader of Sandatahang Pampropaganda sa Platoon (SPP) Sikop of GF4-A, and Peter Mansagunda Pinakilid, the political officer of GF4-A.
“We know the two leaders. We were with them for more than two years while we were still active in the movement. We identified them through their features and on the personal belongings recovered,” one of the ex-rebels said.
Molina also lauded the support manifested by the civilians in the area that led to the success of the military operation.
“The information we received from them was vital that guided our troopers in the exact location of the NPA rebels,” he said.
He also expressed gratitude to the local government unit (LGU) of Gingoog City through Mayor Erick Cañosa for shouldering the funeral expenses of the cadavers.
1Lt. Roel Maglalang, 23Ib civil-military operations officer, noted that Gingoog City and its villages have declared the NPA as persona non grata last year.
“Such a declaration changed the belief of the residents, especially in far-flung areas to the government. Now the people in these areas come to the government not only to seek support for the needs of their communities but also to provide the security forces with information,” Maglalang said.
Lt. Col. Ariel Philip Pontillas chief of police of Gingoog City, also thanked the people in the barangays for the information that led to the military operation against the rebels.
“One week before the incident, we already received information on the massing up of armed men in our area,” Pontillas said.
He added that the NPA rebels were out to conduct harassments, especially on “soft targets” such as police detachments and outposts.
In a statement Thursday, Brig. Gen. Maurito L. Licudine, commander of the Army’s 402nd Infantry Brigade, expressed condolences to the families of the NPA combatants who died during the series of armed encounters recently.
“We offer our deepest condolences to the family of the CNTs (communist NPA terrorists) who perished in that fateful day,” Licudine said.
He also encouraged the families of the fleeing NPA rebels to reach out to them and encourage them to peacefully surrender to the government.
“To those CNT members who are still out there, we urge you to lay down your arms and submit yourselves to any government officials in your community or to the nearest Army camp,” Licudine said. (Alexander Lopez, PNA)