A junior Army officer injured in an encounter with suspected New People's Army rebels in Barangay Dian-ay, Escalante City, Negros Occidental, is still fighting for his life, two days after the gunbattle.
Lt. Col. Rommel Cordova, 62 nd Infantry Battalion commander, said that while the condition of Army 1Lt. John Rey Espinosa is improving, he was still at a critical stage, as of yesterday.
Espinosa, 27, commander of the 62IB Bravo Company, was hit in the head, when he and his men figured in an encounter with about 10 suspected NPA rebels in Sitio Madrak, Brgy. Dian-ay, Escalante, that is among the venues of the peace and development activities of the Provincial Peace Integration and Development Unit in northern Negros.
The Friday encounter also claimed the life of an NPA member, identified as Danilo Amar, of Tibi-ao, Antique, and caused an injury to Romly Palotes, who was among the group of rebels who opened fire at the Army soldiers, Cordova said.
Palotes claimed in radio interviews that he is a civilian, but Cordova dismissed this as a plain alibi, pointing out that Palotes served as guide for the rebel group looking for Army soldiers.
Despite what happened to Espinosa, Cordova said they have extended burial assistance to the family of the slain NPA member, and bought medicines for Palotes and took care of his wife, who had asked for assistance from Dian-ay barangay officials.
Unfortunately, Cordova said Amar was used by the NPA, who left him behind at the encounter site. He also said they will extend counseling assistance to the victims, who are being exploited by the NPA.
A .45 caliber pistol with ammunition left behind by the fleeing rebels was recovered at the encounter site by Army soldiers pursuing them.
Cordova said they may file charges against Palotes and his companions, if he does not cooperate with them.
Palotes is now being treated for his injury at the Alfredo Marañon Sr. Memorial Hospital in Brgy. Bato, Sagay City.