By Aaron Recuenco
Most of the communist rebels who were killed in a police raid in Antique were ranking officials of the local New People’s Army (NPA), police officials disclosed Saturday as they denied the allegations that there was no firefight that occurred.
Chief Supt. John Bulalacao, director of the Western Visayas regional police, said they have been anticipating denial and twisting of stories about the operation in San Jose town of Antique since the operation had caused a leadership vacuum in the local communist rebel hierarchy.
“We reiterate that it was a legitimate police operation. Our men have warrants of arrest. The overwhelming pieces of evidence recovered speak for itself,” Bulalacao said.
“To claim therefore that they did not fire upon arresting military and PNP personnel is obviously absurd. We already anticipate these derogatory claims considering that those who perished in the shootout are mostly ranking officials of the Communist party of the Philippines- NPA in Western Visayas,” he added.
On Wednesday, joint police and military operatives killed seven suspected communist rebels and seized guns, grenades, gadgets, bank books and ATM cards along with alleged extortion letters with the letterhead of local NPA leadership.
Six of those who were killed were identified as Karen Ceralvo, Felix Salditos, Jason Sanchez, Rene Yap, Liezl Bandiola and Jason Talibo who is one of the two subjects of the arrest warrant. Joven Ceralvo, the other subject of the arrest warrant, was able to flee.
Bulalacao said the information they received was that most of those who died are holding key positions in NPA leadership in Western Visayas. In fact, he said some of those slain are not from Antique but from various areas in the region like Negros Occidental and Iloilo.
In a statement, the local leadership of the National Democratic Front condemned the operation and branded the death of the seven suspected communist rebels as a massacre.
The NDF-Panay admitted that the seven are members of the CPP-NDF and were assigned as education and propaganda staff but stressed that they were not armed and therefore not combatants.
According to the statement, some of those slain are veteran members of the CPP-NDF.
Bulalacao however stressed the claim of the NDF that there was no firefight was preposterous, saying they have enough proof that the slain rebels indeed engaged the raiding policemen and soldiers.
It was recalled that the operation stemmed from the serving of arrest warrant against two suspected communist rebels, one of them was killed while the other one survived and was able to flee.
Bulalacao also hit back at NDF for claiming that the slain rebels are noncombatants, saying it is the NPA which has the history of killing noncombatant government forces who were out for medical mission.
“We all know how brutal NPA guerillas are in killing government personnel even those involved in search and rescue operations, medical and SOCO (Scene of the Crime Operation) personnel who are noncombatants are being ambushed,” Bulalacao said .
“They are most welcome to file complaints as we are in a democratic country but with the overwhelming pieces of evidence we have at hand they know for sure they will fail. It is therefore expected that they will turn to black propaganda as usual,” he added.