Soldiers from Charlie Company of the 82nd Infantry Battalion led by 1LT Pete Malaluan were fired upon by members of the Napoleon Tumagtang Command of the New People’s Army (NPA) while occupying a temporary patrol base in Brgy Bagacay, Igbaras, Iloilo at early dawn last week.
No soldier was hurt during the harassment. However, a civilian was badly injured as one of the NPA’s shots her in the thigh. The victim was identified as Juanita Espinosa Sabijon, 40 years old, married, and a resident of Brgy Passi proper. The bullet hit the back of her right thigh near her knee and exited near her groin. The soldiers and the responding civilians gave first aid. She was evacuated via ambulance to Guimbal District Hospital at about 3:00 in the morning. Her house lies about 50 meters from the boundary between Bagacay and Passi. She was hit while asleep with her family inside her house. Brgy Bagacay proper and Brgy Passi proper of Igbaras are about 200 meters apart from each other.
The shots were fired from higher ground approximately 80 meters southwest of the barangay proper and were directed towards the health center where some of the soldiers were resting. According to the troops. The initial enemy fire lasted for three (3) seconds and about 15 rounds of ammunition were fired at them as evidenced by the bullet holes found on the roof of the health center. The soldiers immediately occupied their defensive battle positions and observed the enemy. Small fire arms were used by the enemy given the close range and the size of the bullet holes found in the damaged roof.
While observing the enemy from their battle positions, the commander of 82IB’s Charlie Company 1LT Pete Malaluan, instructed his men to reposition their MG-60 Heavy Machine-gun towards the enemy and fired six rounds. The NPA answered back with five rounds. Ceasefire declared after two (2) minutes and troops charged the enemy position where they recovered 32 pieces 5.56mm and 5 pieces 7.62 mm spent shells.
According to Ltcol George Joel Lalaquil of the 82IB: "the recent harass-ments in San Remigio, Antique and Bagacay, Igbaras were meant to distract the Bravo Company which is currently conducting pursuit operations against the perpetrators of the delivery van hijacking and burning in Leon town."
A few days ago, a delivery van carrying various products was hijacked and burned by 15 NPAs under the command of aka Jam of the Napoleon Tumagtang Command. They stole P27,000 worth of cash and goods. "These harassments indicate that we are closing in on the group of Jam and these attacks are designed to ease and divert the pressure of our pursuit operations," Lalaquil added.
With the recent spate of NPA activity in Southern Panay, the 3ID is on full alert against further harassment. This is the third incident involving the Napoleon Tumagtang Command after President Benigno C. Aquino’s call for national reconciliation and the resumption of peace talks with the CPP-NPA-NDF.
"Clearly, this is the NPA’s response to our President’s call for peace," so says 3ID Chief, Maj Gen Vicente M Porto. "However, we will not be deterred from performing our internal security mission by these incidents. We will continue putting pressure on them until they reach the breaking point. And with the aid of our partners in development, we will make these NPA irrelevant," Porto added.
"They now attack innocent civilians to terrorize them into submission; an approach that is done only by desperate men who turn to lying, thievery and more desperate criminal acts for survival. Harming and murdering civilians must now be a standard policy of the Napoleon Tumagtang Command and not merely by circumstance," 3ID Spokesman 1LT Mark Andrew T Posadas opined.