An alleged high-ranking commander of the New People’s Army (NPA) was killed in an encounter with government troops in Kalayaan, Laguna Friday, the military reported Saturday.
Lt. Col. Jesus Diocton, commanding officer of the 1st Infantry Battalion (1IB), identified the suspect as Mario Caraig, alias “Jethro,” whom he said was the secretary of the Southern Tagalog Regional Party Committee’s Sub-Regional Military Area (SRMA)-4C.
Diocton said elements of the 202nd Infantry Brigade (202 IBde), which has operational jurisdiction over Laguna, and local police were conducting a follow up operation in Barangay San Antonio when they were engaged in a firefight an undetermined number of armed men around 11:10 p.m.
The gunmen were forced to flee when they were overpowered by joint military and police forces. No casualty was reported on the side of the troopers.
It was the second encounter in the area this week after government troops also clashed with suspected NPA rebels last Aug. 4.
Three suspects were killed in that encounter, including one alias “Termo,” the alleged commander of the Main Regional Guerilla Unit of the NPA in Southern Tagalog.
Brig. Gen. Alex Rillera, commander of 202 IBde, said Caraig was “feared” by the indigenous people “because he has been coercing the peace-loving Dumagat Remontados (an IP group) to join and support the underground movement.”
He said Caraig used to operate in Batangas and Cavite but was forced to hiding in the Sierra Madres after the Guerilla Front Honda, his former unit, was dismantled by the military in 2018.
“The fall of Jethro is a welcome development to the ranks of the IPs because it meant one less terrorist whose primary role is to torment and exploit their fundamental rights,” Rillera said.
Troops recovered in the encounter site a caliber .45 pistol, a 9mm pistol, two hand grenades, and various documents.
Checkpoints were established in the area to support the on-going pursuit operations against the escaping rebels, Rillera said.