From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 14): Army foils S. Mindanao reb attack
Military officer urges troops to stay alert as Duterte prepares for State of the Nation Address
New People’s Army fighters from its North Central Mindanao regional command gather in a village in Misamis Oriental province for the Communist Party of the Philippines’ anniversary in 2016. —JIGGER J. JERUSALEM
The military on Thursday said it thwarted a plan by communist rebels to stage a major attack in southern Mindanao ahead of President Duterte’s State of the Nation Address (Sona) after government soldiers clashed with insurgents in Compostela Valley province that left nine dead.
Maj. Gen. Noel Clement, 10th Infantry Division (ID) commander, said the fighting in the upland town of Laak was a reminder for troops “not to lower our guard down against any armed threat that could harm our people.”
The clash in LS Sarmiento village happened as soldiers from the 25th and 60th Infantry Battalions were pursuing a group of New People’s Army (NPA) rebels who fled following the collapse of a rebel encampment in Casoon village in nearby Monkayo town early this week, said Capt. Alexandre Cabales, acting spokesperson for the 10th ID.
Cabales said their reports indicated that the rebels were massing up at the Laak-Monkayo border, prompting the military to conduct an operation that led to an encounter on July 10.
Military officials believe the rebel buildup in Compostela Valley is part of the NPA’s plan to intensify attacks as Mr. Duterte prepares to address the nation on July 24.
At least eight rebels died in the firefight, one of the biggest losses of the NPA in Mindanao in recent years. A soldier also died in the clash, Cabales said.
“It was a consolidation for a tactical offensive they would be conducting as part of their so-called compliance to a directive to intensify attacks leading to the Sona,” he said.
Soldiers also recovered five assault rifles, an M-60 machine gun and several improvised explosives from the clash site.
A day before the clash, rebels also abducted PO1 Alfredo Basabica Jr. of the Davao Oriental public safety company. Basabica was on a Davao City-bound bus that the rebels blocked at a checkpoint in Compostela town.
Chief Supt. Manuel Gaerlan, Southern Mindanao police chief, said Basabica was on his way to Davao to visit his family.
The rebels also took Basabica’s service pistol, said Senior Insp. Catherine dela Rey, southern Mindanao police spokesperson.