The elusive Negrense rebel priest Frank Fernandez, who was reported by the military to be the secretary of the Komiteng Rehiyonal-Negros, may have been among those who managed to escape during the seizure of two New People's Army training camps in Brgy. Buenavista, Himamaylan City, Negros Occidental.
The possibility was raised yesterday by Lt. Col. Darry Bañes, 62nd Infantry Battalion commander, following the recovery of a cap believed to be owned by Fernandez and a rope used in tying a horse.
Bañes said Fernandez usually rides a horse while traveling because of health problems.
The seizure of two rebel camps after a series of encounters in Brgys. Buenavista and Carabalan in Himamaylan City, also led to the injuries of two Army soldiers, recovery of an M-16 assault rifle, three ICOM radios, among other personal belongings.
Bañes said he believes that the two NPA training camps could be the staging areas for rebel tactical offensives, in connection with the 49th founding anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines, and the plenum site for their regional leadership.
He also said that Juanito Magbanua, regional commander of the NPA, may also have been in the company of Fernandez.
The entire Philippine Army and police units in Negros are now in full alert status, in response to a series of NPA attacks all over the country.
Bañes said more troops have been dispatched in the neighboring areas of encounter sites, as they pressed their military operations against the fleeing rebels, who have splintered into small groups.
He acknowledged the support of the residents, especially the family members and relatives of victims of NPA atrocities, in the two hinterland communities of Himamaylan City, who had informed them of the presence of armed rebels in their areas.
Four rifle grenades believed owned and hidden by suspected communist rebels were also surrendered to the police in Toboso, Negros Occidental.
The four rifle grenades were discovered hidden in a nipa plantation Sitio Plarendeng, Brgy. Salamanca,Toboso, by a certain Rolando Tumarse who reported it to barangay officials.* GPB
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