Army denies report of 5 troopers missing after clash with rebels

By Celso Amo LEGAZPI CITY --- Capt. Joas Pramis, 9th Division public affairs officer, denied reports that five troopers from the 96th Infantry Batallion were missing after two soldiers were killed while three others were wounded in an encounter with New People’s Army rebels Sunday afternoon in Labo, Camarines Norte. “All our troops are all accounted for and there is no one missing,” Pramis said. He said an Army platoon was sent to the area to verify report on the presence of armed men when they encountered the main group of rebels numbering to about 60 in Barangay Dumagmang at about 4:00 p.m. of Oct. 14. The firefight lasted for 25 minutes that left two government troopers killed and three wounded; the communist terrorists also having suffered heavy casualties. “We are trying to determine where the NPA reinforcement came from as there was no such number of formation [when the firefight started],” he added. Immediately after the clash, additional Army reinforcement while on combat patrol in the vicinity of Barangay Pag-asa was sent to the encounter site for blocking operation. The Bicol Regional Party Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippine remains the number one threat in the Bicol Region. Five Komite Platoons operate in various provinces in the region comprising 53 members from the Communist Party of the Philippines, 235 NPA regulars backed-up by 675 Militia ng Bayan and armed with 239 high powered and 41 low powered firearms. Since January this year, the Army said, communist terrorists have conducted six liquidations and 121 non-violent activities.