CALAPAN CITY—Mangyans fled their villages in the mountains as government forces battled New People’s Army guerrillas Wednesday morning, leaving an Army soldier and four militiamen dead, the military said.
Killed were Army Cpl. Rolando Bernal and militiamen Christopher Gadon, Fulgencio Rolando, Gary Galindez, and Ernesto Malubay Jr., all members of the Civilian Armed Force Geographical Unit, of the 41st Infantry Battalion, of the Army Capt. Allan Apara said.
Initial reports said the platoon, composed of 14 Army soldiers and seven Cafgu members led by Lt. Robert Relativo, were on combat patrol in Barangay Hagan, pursuing a rebel band and shot dead a councilman, Gerry Magallon, in front of his house in Sitio Balite last Sunday, when they were fired upon by about 30 NPA rebels belonging to the Kilusan Sa Pangkat group.
A 30-minute gun battle ensued after Bernal and the four militiamen were killed in the initial volley of fire. Attack
helicopters launched an air strike on the NPA position but the military could not ascertain if there were casualties on the rebel side.
Police said Mangyans and other residents fled their villages for feat of getting caught in the crossfire.
The entire Mindoro province has been placed on red alert in anticipation of more rebel attacks ahead of the NPA anniversary of March 29.
The AFP Southern Luzon Command said it believed the rebels were part of the group that stormed a police station in Paluan, killing two policemen and a soldier in November 2014. Since then, the military has been tracking the movements of the rebel group.
“Now that the troops located them, we will use necessary force and AFP assets to neutralize them,” said Southern Luzon Command chief Lt. Gen. Ricardo R. Visaya.
The commanding officer of the Army’s 4th Infantry Battalions, Lt. Col. Rodolfo Gesim said the wounded were airlifted to Roxas, Oriental Mindoro for medical attention.