BY GILBERT P. BAYORAN
Sporadic gunbattles between Army soldiers and suspected New People’s Army rebels ensued in Candoni town, Negros Occidental, yesterday.
P/Maj. Junji Liba, Candoni police chief, said the armed skirmishes started at about 5:30 a.m. yesterday, when 15th Infantry Battalion soldiers encountered about 30 armed rebels in Sitio Guinobatan, Brgy. Caningay, Candoni.
Almost four hours later, pursuing Army soldiers again encountered the fleeing armed rebels, who were reported to have been withdrawing towards Brgy. Payauan, Liba said.
Maj. Cenon Pancito, spokesperson of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, said they have yet to validate reports that the NPA suffered a casualty, as pursuit operations were still in progress, as of this writing.
Pancito confirmed that two encounters took place between 15IB soldiers and the fleeing rebels.
Liba said they are now conducting checkpoints in possible exit areas of the rebels, in response to reports that some of them were injured.
Several individuals, who initially fled from Sitio Guinobatan for security reasons, have already returned to their homes, after the firefight transferred to other areas, he added.
The Candoni police surmised that the rebels encountered by the 15IB soldiers were the main force of the NPA South West Front.
The neighboring police stations of Candoni have also been alerted to conduct checkpoints, in support to the operations of the 15IB, that is now under the supervision of the 302nd Infantry Brigade, stationed in Tanjay City, Negros Oriental.*