TACLOBAN CITY—Hours before the effectivity of Christmas truce between security forces and the communist rebels, the New People’s Army attacked another military truck carrying soldiers and disaster equipment in Northern Samar, the military reported Tuesday.
Capt. Isagani Viernes, spokesman of the Philippine Army’s 8th Infantry Division based in Catbalogan City, Samar, said one soldier was killed while three others were wounded in the attack that occurred at the farming town of Las Navas around dawn Tuesday.
“Since the aftermath of Typhoon “Nona,” we don’t have military offensive since our focus is on disaster response. Rebels are taking advantage of our operation,” Viernes said, noting that the attack came only four days after communist rebels attacked another military disaster rescuers in Pinabacdao, Samar.
The attack also came hours before the start of a 12-day ceasefire that the NPA said will start at 12:01 a.m. of Dec. 23 until 11:59 p.m. of Jan. 3, 2016.
“We will be on defensive mode even if there’s [suspension of military operations] because rebels traditionally mark their anniversary with atrocities,” Viernes added, noting that the NPA wanted to show strength of force ahead of the Communist Party of the Philippines anniversary on Dec. 26.
Viernes said the military truck was carrying rescue equipment to the Las Navas Agro-Industrial School, a training center run by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.
The firefight with undetermined number of suspected communist rebels lasted for 15 minutes, he added.
Wounded soldiers were brought to hospitals in Tacloban City and in a district hospital in Catubig town in Northern Samar for treatment.
It was the second time the NPA attacked government troops on rescue operations after the ambush of a convoy of Army trucks that were transporting relief goods to typhoon-stricken Pinabacdao, Samar.
The convoy of three trucks led by First Lt. Fritz Perez and two personnel from the Department of Social Welfare and Development were on their way back to Tacloban City after transporting relief goods when they were waylaid by an undetermined number of NPA rebels last Dec. 18.
Two soldiers were also wounded in that encounter.
The Armed Forces condemned the ambush and accused the communist NPA of deliberately orchestrating atrocities just so they can celebrate something on the CPPs anniversary.
“The NPAs are continuously and deliberately conducting atrocities like ambuscades against our troops who are only doing their job to assist in humanitarian assistance [and] disaster response operations,” said Maj. Gen. Jet Velarmino, commander of the 8th Infantry Division.
Velarmino said the attack would not hamper ongoing relief operations for victims of Typhoon “Nona” in the Eastern Visayas.
The military lamented that the NPA was the one to first declare a Christmas truce even before President Benigno Aquino III ordered a unilateral suspension of military operations against the NPA from 12:01 a.m. of Dec. 23 to 11:59 p.m. of Jan. 3.