DAVAO CITY – The Philippine Army claims there were no fatalities in its encounter with the New People’s Army in Baracatan, this city, on July 8, while the police later said two government troops were confirmed dead.

Meanwhile, the NPA claimed six troopers were killed and six others were wounded in the ambush.  In a statement, Isabel Fermiza, spokesperson of the Mt. Apo Subregional Command of the NPA, said they also confiscated two high-powered rifles and various military paraphernalia after they “lured company-sized soldiers of the 84th Infantry Battalion-10th Infantry Division to the guerrilla hideout. “

Fermiza said that the NPA’s offensives “disproved hallucinations of AFP’s 10th Infantry Division commanding-general Maj. Gen. Ariel Bernardo” that the NPA forces are “thinning out, losing ground, and limited to merely seven towns in Davao del Norte and Compostela Valley provinces.”

She said the ambush also “refuted the AFP claim” that Toril and the nearby town of Santa Cruz, Davao del Sur is “NPA free” because of the AFP’s Peace and Development Outreach Program (PDOP) and that the “claims of accomplishment are merely to justify the huge and heavily purloined AFP budget and the funds funneled from mining and capitalists that finance the ongoing massive military operations in Southern Mindanao.”

Fermiza said that the “AFP has failed to wipe out any single guerrilla front in the region and to prevent the NPA from forming more fighting and fully-armed platoons.”

Capt. Ernest Carolina, deputy public affairs officer of the Army’s 10th ID, recounted their version of the events of July 8 when the Special Action Forces of the police first spotted the rebels.

“It was 7:30am when the PNP-SAF reported seeing an NPA’s encampment which can accommodate 20 people; they are 3 kilometers away. An encounter was already reported 1:30 pm but it was already a joint operation with the 84th IB,” said Carolina in a phone interview.

Carolina said that they already have information that the NPA “is approaching Davao City from Mt. Talomo which is already in the border of North Cotabato (province).”

Carolina belied Fermiza’s claim of a surprise attack and said that “84th IB troops marched 2 days for the joint operation because a sizable amount of the population are supporting the peace measures of the AFP.”

He added that state troops reported that the NPAs “were also dragging in comrades.”

Carolina said that only five police officers were wounded and are now being treated in the Southern Philippines Medical Center while only one was wounded with the 84th IB who is now being treated in the Army’s Eastern Mindanao Command hospital in Panacan, Davao City.

Carolina did not identify the wounded state troops as he said their families were not yet informed.

Police Inspector Jed Clamor,  Chief of Regional Public Information of the Philippine National Police XI,  said over a television interview that two of the SAF members were killed in the ambush.

Meanwhile, Fermiza said that the “AFP’s dismal record contains increasing head count not of NPA members but of civilian victims of extra-judicial killings, torture and intimidation.”

Fermiza said that the NPA’s “successful tactical offensive in Toril” was “not only due to its mastery in guerilla warfare, but also due to the wide and warm support of the masses who are not fooled by the AFP’s PDOP.”

“The AFP and the regime cannot stop the tactical offensives launched here and in other territories nationwide, nor can it impede the mounting pressure to oust Benigno Aquino, III from his throne. Its massive infusion of battle-weary troops and fascist soldiers in the region makes it even more isolated from the masses and can only lead to abject futility,” said Fermiza.

Lt. Col. Lyndon Paniza of the Eastmincom, in an interview last April said two battalions of soldiers from Luzon and one battalion from the Visayas were redeployed to the Davao Region.

Human rights group Karapatan however said that a total of 25 battalions of the Army are currently deployed in the region and warned  this would result to an “increase in human rights violations.” (davaotoday.com)

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