Philippine military, police kill 4 suspected communist rebels

Jeoffrey Maitem
2022.04.07
Cotabato, Philippines
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Philippine military, police kill 4 suspected communist rebels Communist New People’s Army troops stand in formation at a location in the Sierra Madre mountain range east of Manila, July 30, 2017.
AFP

The military said Thursday that it killed four suspected communist rebel leaders during a clash in the southern Philippines, delivering a major blow after government security forces vowed last week to intensify operations to counter Asia’s longest-running insurgency.

Troops were checking information about the presence of about 30 New People’s Army guerrillas in a remote village in Talakag, a town in Bukidnon province, when gunmen attacked them on Wednesday, the government military’s commander for Eastern Mindanao told reporters. 

“Our troops together with police responded to the reports and moved to secure the area, triggering a firefight lasting almost two hours that led to the death of the rebel leaders,” Lt. Gen. Greg Almerol said. 

He identified those killed as Carlisio D. Sumalinog, Jovilito T. Pontillas, Gary I. Juliana, and Jelly A. Sugnot. Troops recovered 16 high-powered firearms, ammunition and other items at the site. 

The four were high-ranking officials of the NPA’s North Central Mindanao Regional Committee, officials alleged. Sugnot was identified as the group’s medical and finance officer, and the three others were said to be commanding officers of the NPA’s fighting units. 

The NPA is the military wing of the outlawed Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), which has been waging an insurgency against Manila since 1969. 

Almerol said the killings of the four dealt a major blow to the rebel’s command structure and would likely put pressure on their followers to surrender. 

“They cannot survive our series of focused military operations without someone to lead them,” he said.

Manhunt intensified

The deadly encounter in Bukidnon came about a week after the national police said they would intensify their manhunt for wanted rebels in prolonging anti-terrorist operations. 

“The CPP-NPA continues to wallow in irrelevance on the 53rd year of its campaign of terror and violence that has only made life more miserable for poor people in the countryside,” Gen. Dionardo Carlos, the chief of national police, said on March 29.

The NPA’s strength is estimated at around 5,000 fighters nationwide, down from at least 20,000 at its peak in the 1980s. 

The government of President Rodrigo Duterte ended peace talks with the CPP in 2017 after accusing the rebels of carrying out deadly attacks despite the negotiations.  

Two years ago, the government declared both the CPP and NPA terrorist organizations. In June 2021, the government added the communist party’s political wing, the National Democratic Front, to that list and froze bank accounts linked to the movement. 

The government has failed to break the insurgency even as it has sought to engage rebel fighters in talks at the local level, rather than through negotiations that involve Jose Maria Sison, the CPP’s leader who lives in self-exile in the Netherlands. 

In March, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the rebels were “deeply embedded in all sectors of society” and that it would take a little more time to finally “neutralize them.”

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