By Alan Tan
LEGAZPI CITY --- Three New People's Army rebels were killed while an undetermined number of rebels were wounded in an encounter with government troopers in Milagros, Masbate on Holy Saturday, an Army official said in a belated report that reached this city Monday, April 17.
Col. Greg Almerol, commanding officer of the 2nd Infantry Batallion, added that four high-powered firearms were recovered during the hour-long “intense firefight” that occurred in Barangay San Antonio, Milagros town between elements of the 2ndIB and some 50 communist rebels.
He said the three communist rebels, who have yet to be identified, were killed during the firefight while three M-16 rifles, an M-14 rifle and a shotgun were recovered from the rebels.
“In addition, there were 23 improvised explosives taken from the rebels,” he added.
Almerol said a generator set, ammunition for M-16 and M-14 rifles, communist propaganda materials and personal belongings of the rebels were left behind in the clash site.
He said villagers in Barangay San Antonio had tipped off authorities about the presence of the NPA guerrillas because they “resented the extortion (of the rebels) through the so-called revolutionary taxation.”
Almerol said he immediately organized a team from the Scout platoon of the Alpha and Bravo companies of the 2nd IB under Capt. Jessie Cabangcala to check the information but the government troops were immediately fired upon around 7:30 a.m. on Saturday when they reached the area.
He said the NPA rebels were under the command of RuelIbañez alias "Gemo."
It was the second encounter between 2nd IB troops and NPA rebels this year. On February 13, four top NPA rebels were killed in a clash in Barangay Pangle in Aroroy town.
Almerol said the 2nd IB based in Barangay Bacolod in Milagros, Masbate has been intensifying its security operations by conducting more combat patrols after intelligence reports showed the Abu Sayaff bandits in Mindanao had come to the Visayas, particularly in Bohol, so they could kidnap tourists.
"Masbate is a favorite tourist destination in Bicol and we want to ensure that the tourists are safe, especially with the ongoing Rodeo festival this week," he said.