By Bonita Ermac
ILIGAN CITY – The Army’s 44th Infantry Battalion (44th IB) foiled an attempt by the New People’s Army (NPA) to disrupt a government information campaign on the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Barangay Penaranda, Kabasalan, Zamboanga Sibugay on Saturday, March 21.
According to 44thIB Commanding Officer Lt. Col. Don Templonuevo, the troops were visiting a local community for an information campaign on the COVID-19 when armed terrorists fired at them.
This prompted the soldiers to fire back, engaging the NPAs in a 12-minute firefight before the insurgents went on a retreat.
The soldiers recovered an improvised explosive device, subversive documents and backpacks with personal belongings, assorted food and medical supplies, from among the things that the retreating rebels left behind.
President Duterte had earlier ordered a ceasefire against the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-NPA-National Democratic Front (NDF) as the country dealt with the COVID-19 crisis. But this was promptly rejected by the Leftist group.
The military’s 102nd Infantry Brigade Commander Colonel Leonel Nicolas said the brigade has complied with the president’s order to suspend all military operations on the ground.
“That is why I have ordered our men to shift their efforts in assisting the local government units in their information campaign against the threat of COVID-19 in the far-flung communities,” said Nicolas.
“It clearly shows mercilessness of the Communists terrorist group even during these times of national crisis,” Nicolas added.
Meanwhile, Major General Gene Ponio, Commander, 1st Infantry Division, condemned the atrocities by the Communist rebels against government troops despite the declaration of unilateral ceasefire by the President.
“We hope that the CPP-NPA can show sympathy to the call of the people and the President to stop all hostilities as we fight a common enemy that is unseen, vicious and deadly,” Ponio said. “We assure the public that there is nothing that they should worry as of the moment.”