BY GILBERT P. BAYORAN
The focused military and police operations and the absence of a yuletide truce led to an encounter that claimed the lives of two suspected New People’s Army rebels and the arrest of a ranking NPA leader in Negros Island, in the past several days.
The Christmas eve armed clash in Sitio Libjo, Brgy. Napacao, Siaton, Negros Oriental, led to the deaths of two suspected NPA rebels, who were identified by the NPA Rachelle Mae Palang Command later as Ricardo “Ka George” Sabinan, of Brgy. Mantiquil, Siaton, and Ebit “Ka MJ” Fuentes, of Brgy. San Vicente, Trinidad, Bohol.
Rebel group spokesperson, Estrella Banagbanag, admitted that Sabinan and Fuentes were their members, who she claimed in a statement she issued were on their way to join the masses for the Christmas festivity.
Maj. Cenon Pancito, 3rd Infantry Division spokesperson, said yesterday that Sabinan has a pending case for murder, and an arrest warrant was issued by Dumaguete Regional Trial Court Judge Leoncio Bancoro, who denied him bail.
Pancito added that the encounter ensued after soldiers of the 11th Infantry Battalion and troopers of the Regional Mobile Force Battalion 7 responded to reports of civilians about the presence of armed men in their community.
He said the firefight between remnants of the South East Front of the Komiteng Rehiyonal-Negros/Cebu/Bohol/Siquijor (KR-NCBS) and government troopers led to the death of the two rebels and the recovery of an M653 assault rifle, a .45 caliber pistol, a bandoleer with two magazines of M14 rifle, three back packs containing assorted medicines and personal belongings, and subversive documents.
NPA LEADER ARRESTED
Meanwhile, an alleged ranking NPA leader was reported by the Philippine Army to have been arrested in Brgy. Camindangan, Sipalay City in Negros Occidental.
Radino Villacarillo, with the aliases of Romil Villacarillo, Poldo, Rading, Ado, Kanor, Baldo, Tauros, and Yongyong, who is the regional committee secretary of the 2nd National Urban Center, formerly known as the Cebu Party Committee, was nabbed by a combined team of the 15th Infantry Battalion and Philippine National Police.
Lt. Col. Erwin Cariño, 15th IB commander, said yesterday that Villacarillo also served as the military hardware liaison for KR-NCBS, regional operational command ordnance staff, former commanding officer of the Rehiyon Sentro De Grabidad KR-Negros, committee member of North Negros Front, and front operational command NNF.
Cariño said the arrest of Villacarillo yielded a .45 caliber automatic pistol, two hand grenades, two laptop computers, eight cellular phones, two pocket Wi-Fis, external drive, four USBs, an unregistered motorcycle, and subversive documents.
He added that Villacarillo was among the NPA insiders tasked by the rebel group to spy not only on various personalities in urban areas, but also to closely monitor the operations of the Special Partisan Unit.
“He was also tasked to keep in touch with politician-sympathizers for him to move freely in the different municipalities, district clinics, and churches,” Cariño said.
Col. Leonardo Peña, 302nd Infantry Brigade commander, called on NPA remnants to embrace the peace being offered by the government.
“It is just unfortunate that lives were being wasted for a cause that offers no solution but only armed struggle and deception,” Peña said.
Both the government and CPP-NPA did not declare a holiday ceasefire that they traditionally observed in the past years. “They only have two options – surrender or die fighting for a lost cause,” Maj. Gen. Eric Vinoya, 3rd Infantry Division commander, said.*