BAGUIO CITY – Suspected New People’s Army (NPA) members operating in the tri-boundary of Ilocos, Benguet, and Mountain Province are reportedly on-the-run after engaging troops from the 54th Infantry Battalion (54th IB), losing the sympathy of local villagers in Sabangan town, Mountain Province.
At least two squads composed of 15 rebels reportedly withdrew from Sabangan in haste after encountering soldiers from the 54th IB for just five minutes in Barangay Naggulunan, Hungduan.
Maj. Noriel Tayaban, speaking on behalf of the 5th ID, said soldiers had a series of dialogues in Barangays Busa, Namatec and Napua in Sabangan town, Mt. Province, convincing villagers to join the government’s fight against the Communist insurgents.
And when soldiers patrolled in the area, they encountered the rebels, later on identified as belonging to the “Kilusang Larangang Gerilya Marco”, exiting Mt. Province towards Ifugao, opened fire.
Tayaban claimed Mt. Province officials have declared Communist rebels as “persona non grata”.
Brig. Gen. Laurence Mina, commanding general of the 5th ID, expressed optimism that with Mt. Province and Ifugao provincial officials’ support and cooperation with government security forces, the “Communist movement in the highland region will continue to dwindle and die”.
Three days ago, top ranking Communist movement leader Jacinto Faroden, allegedly the first deputy secretary of the Ilocos-Cordillera Regional Committee (ICRC) of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-NPA, who has the nom de guerre as “Ka Digbay”, turned himself in to soldiers and policemen after a series of negotiations for over a year in Bontoc, Mt. Province capital.
Faroden was also the commanding officer of the Kilusang Larangang Gerilya (KLG) BAMPIS (Benguet, Abra-Mt. Province-Ilocos Sur) quad boundary, who carried a P5.8-million reward for various crimes committed in Mt. Province and other provinces in the Cordillera.
Negotiations for his surrender started as early as March in 2019 by military and police forces stationed in the Cordillera.
Mina claimed that the surrender of Faroden “will surely affect the ICRC leadership specially its members in Ilocos and Cordillera Regions.”
Mina thanked Faroden for his decision to surrender, and said: “His brave act of a top ICRC leader is a welcome development and an encouragement to the remaining NPAs to lay down their arm and live in genuine peace. If a top cadre like Ka Digbay gave up with the organization that he thought could bring social justice and equality for all then why others could not? And so, I enjoin the deceived NPAs to follow the move of Ka Digbay and choose to live in the right path.”
Only last June, AnnieTauli, alleged secretary of the ICRC, also surrendered to National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon in Baguio City.