DAVAO CITY – Eight persons were killed when government soldiers and members of a tribal militia engaged New People’s Army guerrillas in separate clashes on January 15-16 in Prosperidad town in Agusan del Sur.

In an emailed statement, Ka Maria Malaya, spokesperson of the National Democratic Front-North East Mindanao Region said “eight were killed, while seven were wounded from the 3rd  Special Forces Battalion (SFB) and the Magahat in three clashes in Barangay Mabuhay, Prosperidad.

She said two NPA members were “slightly hit”.  Malaya said the “3rd SFB along with the bandit ‘Magahat’ were on military operations from their camp in Inagawan, Prosperidad towards the mountain area of Mabini and Mabuhay in Prosperidad.”

She said Bobby Tejero, Romeo Banusan, Emie Perez and Anit Belandres “all members of ‘Magahat’ under Kalpit Egwa,” were seen by residents with the Army.

“Banusan is the leader of another group of the ‘Magahat’ encamped in Sitio Inagawan, La Purisima, Prosperidad, while Anit Belandres is the brother of Marcial Belandres who killed lumad-leader Henry  Alameda last October 24, 2014 in Barangay San Isidro, Lianga, Surigao del Sur,” said Malaya.

On January 15, Malaya said a unit of the NPA-Front 19 ambushed 12 Magahat fighters led by Banusan, while they were patrolling in Purok 6, Mabuhay, Prosperidad.

She said the ambush happened at around 7:40 in the morning.

“The firefight lasted 15 minutes, with no casualty from both sides. At around 1:00 in the afternoon, another NPA team harassed the same ‘Magahat’ group while they were going towards Purok 6, Mabuhay, Prosperidad. The firefight went on for 20 minutes and two enemies were hit, while an NPA was slightly hit,” she said.

At 9:20 am of January 16, some 50 combined 3rd SFB and ‘Magahat’ fighters attacked an NPA position in Sitio Kauswagan, Mabuhay, Prosperidad, Malaya said.

She said government troops and tribal militiamen sustained six killed and seven wounded after 20 minutes of the fire fight.

“An NPA was wounded and a few things were left behind,” she added.

“These recent incidents confirms the fact that the criminal group of the Tejero brothers and Marcial Belandres, who have arrest warrants for the killings of lumads, are with AFP units,” said Malaya.

“This shows that the AFP do not intend to arrest these criminals and that the creation of Task Force Bangkaw supposedly to go after them, is just for show,” she said.

The Magahat Bagani group was known to be a creation of the military and was implicated in the killing of school administrator, Emerito Samarca, and tribal leaders Dionel Campos and Datu Bello Sinzo in Sitio Han-ayan, Barangay Diatagon, Lianga, Surigao del Sur on September 1.

Residents identified Magahat leaders Bobby Tejero, his brother Loloy, and Garito Layno as among those who killed the victims in broad daylight in public.

The warrants of arrest for murder, robbery, grave coercion and arson against the suspect were already issued by the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 28 in Lianga town on September 22, last year.

The Philippine National Police and the AFP also set up the Task Force Bangkaw, which is headed by the PNP, to arrest the suspects.

The Army has previously denied involvements in the organization of the Magahat.

They also called to support the disbandment of the paramilitary group.

At present, almost 3,000 evacuees are still encamped at the Tandag City provincial sports complex for fear of the threats from the paramilitary group.(davaotoday.com)

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