A 21-year-old woman, suspected of being a member of the New People’s Army (NPA), died in an armed encounter with the military in Kananga, Leyte, on Friday.
The military identified the fatality as Rochelle Mae Bacalso, alias Ruth and Justine, who was allegedly from the Sub-Regional Committee Levox, Eastern Visayas Regional Party Committee that was a remnant of the Communist group responsible for the Inopacan Massacre in the 1980s.
Brig. Gen. Zosimo Oliveros, commander of the 802nd Infantry Brigade (802nd IB), said elements of the 93rd Infantry Battalion (93rd IB) were conducting a patrol in Sitio Mat-i, Barangay Mahawan when they were allegedly fired upon by Bacalso’s group around 3:35 p.m. last Friday.
He said the troopers were on a routine patrol in response to a tip from a civilian about the presence of armed suspects in the village when they were attacked.
The soldiers were forced to return fire until the enemies retreated, Oliveros said.
When the shootout ended, the soldiers immediately searched the area until they found Bacalso, who was profusely bleeding and critically wounded.
The soldiers rushed Bacalso to the Kananga Municipal Hospital where she was declared dead on arrival after sustaining multiple gunshot wounds to the body, Oliveros reported.
Meanwhile, the troopers recovered on site a Glock pistol, a bandoleer for M16 magazines, one magazine for an M16 rifle loaded with ammunition, a backpack with personal belongings, a cellphone, four hammocks, four poncho tents, and other documents.
Oliveros said Bacalso was the subject of an intelligence operation and rescue efforts after she was identified by the military during a previous encounter with the same NPA unit two months ago.
Last September 13, the 93rd IB clashed with members of the Levox Committee in Kananga town where the troopers rescued two minors and arrested two other members of the group. A soldier, Corporal Nicxon Romenio, died in the firefight.
Oliveros said the 802nd Infantry Brigade posted a photo of Bacalso in social media as they appealed for help in locating her family in Eastern Visayas.
Bacalso was identified when the military compared her uploaded pictures to the body found on the scene and noticed the same “three unmistakable moles under her lower lip,” Oliveros said.
Bacalso’s remains were sent to an undisclosed morgue while waiting for her family.