The Army’s 3rd Infantry Division yesterday dismissed as an attempt to boost the sagging morale of their members the claim of the New People’s Army that they had killed two soldiers in the June 28 encounter in Brgy. Apoloy, Siaton, Negros Oriental.
Maj. Enrico Ileto, 3ID spokesman, said all the soldiers in that encounter were safe and unhurt.
He said that in the spirit of transparency and accountability, the Philippine Army is duty-bound to report its casualties. “The families of soldiers also have to know, who, just like the soldiers, also deserve recognition for their sacrifices for the nation”, he added.
Estrella Banagbanag, spokesperson of the NPA Rachelle Mae Palang Command, in a statement, earlier claimed that a squad-sized rebel unit killed two soldiers in the Siaton encounter. She also vehemently denied that the NPA strength in southeast Negros has been waning.
Ileto said the rebel unit in Negros Oriental wants to project to other NPA forces in the Visayas that they are still a force to be reckoned with by “advertising that they are able to inflict casualties on the Philippine Army”, and not as a spent force.
He added the truth has been elusive from the NPA whenever it issues statements.
But Ileto said they will continue to offer the rebels peace and “our doors are open in bringing them back to their normal lives”. He emphasized the Army will be relentless in pursuing those who continue to bear arms.
Meanwhile, eight rebel-returnees, who surrendered to the 303rd Infantry Brigade, will be presented to Negros Occidental Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr. at the Provincial Capitol in Bacolod City Wednesday.
Col. Oscar Lactao, 303rd IB commander, said the surrender of eight more rebels brought to 63 the total number of those who abandoned the armed struggle in Negros Occidental since middle of last year.
The eight are expected to get financial and livelihood assistance from the provincial government similar to what the 55 other returnees received.*GPB
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