MOURNING. Relatives of soldiers slain during an ambush in Calinog, Iloilo get comforting words from a member of the Army's Task Force Panay outside St. Therese Memorial Chapel. (FAA)
9 killed, 14 wounded in Calinog ambush
By Francis Allan L. Angelo
THE Philippine Army denounced the New People’s Army (NPA) for using landmines in the Saturday evening ambush in Calinog, Iloilo which killed nine soldiers and wounded 14 others.
"The recent attack by members of the communist NPA using landmines indicates a shift in their usual conduct of combat operations and is a clear manifestation of their terroristic nature," said Army spokesman Major Bartolome Bacarro.
Members of the Army’s 47th Infantry Battalion and elite 1st Scout Ranger Company were waylaid at Barangay Datagan, some 7 kilometers from Calinog town proper past 8pm Saturday.
The Army soldiers were returning to their barracks on board two trucks after conducting patrol operations in the mountains of Iloilo and Capiz.
One of the trucks stepped on a landmine planted by the rebels instantly killing six government soldiers.
Remaining Army troops returned fire at 15 NPA rebels in an hour-long gun battle.
Reinforcements from the Army’s Task Force Panay based in Dingle, Iloilo forced the rebels to retreat to the mountains.
Major Lyndon Sollesta, spokesperson of the 3rd Infantry Division in Jamindan, Capiz said the rebels belonged to the NPA’s Central Front Committee.
The casualties were Staff Sgt. (SSgt.) Melquiades Montemayor of Cebu, Master Sgt. Paterno Villarente of Iloilo City, SSgt. Ronel Panes of Passi City, Corporal Rodelo Pacia of South Cotabato, Private First Class (PFC) Nuol Rosbert, a certain PFC Angeles of Davao, PFC Villamor of Davao, Corp. Marlon Cepalle of Bicol and SSgt. Alexander Luis of Ilocos region.
The remains of the dead soldiers were brought to St. Therese Memorial Chapel in Molo, Iloilo City.
Injured were PFC Ervin Gerona, Rodrigo Agud, Nasser Abellar, Ronnie Espiritu, Joel Ryan Delmonte, John William Oñaz, Richard Baslot, Michael Camotojan, James Carlito Rodel Jaud, Corp. Raul Fuentes, Mike Gigante, Edgar Gelito, Adonis Vincent Cabaljin and Mario Pascua.
They were brought to Western Visayas Medical Center and West Visayas State University Medical Center.
Most of the fatalities were on board the truck which stepped on the landmine.
The blast was so powerful it ripped the legs of the fatalities while others were killed by a hail of rebel bullets.
Authorities have yet to report on rebel casualties.
Calinog police investigators said the rebels planned the ambush for some time as several armed insurgents were reportedly spotted at the ambush site four days prior to the incident.
Investigator recovered plastic fragments probably used to wrap the landmine. They also discovered chewed sugarcane stalks in the area which the rebels consumed while awaiting their target.
Major Sollesta denounced the NPA for using landmines “which is no longer authorized under United Nations laws.”
The Army continues to pursue the rebels in the hinterlands of central Panay as of presstime.
Since last month, the NPA has waged sporadic attacks against Army and PNP personnel. (Published in The Guardian, November 21, 2005 issue)