From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 20): Escalante City villagers support Army campaign vs. NPA
BACOLOD CITY -- The Philippine Army in Negros Occidental has gained the support of the residents of Sitio Puting Bato in Barangay Washington, Escalante City for the Army's anti-insurgency campaign.
This came after about 800 villagers joined the dialogue hosted by the city government in the barangay gymnasium on Monday afternoon, and condemned the presence of the New People’s Army (NPA) in their community.
Col. Benedict Arevalo, commander of the 303rd Infantry Brigade in Negros Island, in a statement, said the support is a “big boost” to their campaign against the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) and the group’s political wing, the National Democratic Front (NDF).
“The populace of a (communist rebel group’s) bailiwick is now the one condemning and taking action against the NPA and their supporters. As I have said before, this fight against them is not only for the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police. We need the support of everyone to win this campaign,” Arevalo said.
Last Friday morning, a joint army and police force encountered a group of communist rebels in Sitio Puting Bato, where two NPA fighters were believed killed but their bodies were brought by their their fleeing comrades.
The military released a photo showing the firearms, ammunition, and other items seized by the government forces after the clash.
The meeting on Monday was attended by Mayor Eddie Montero; Lt. Col. Emelito Thaddeus Logan, commanding officer of 79th Infantry Battalion; Supt. Negrado Sabando, chief of Escalante City Police Station; Janine Agwata, head of the City Social Welfare and Development Office; and Washington village chief Rene Tiguelo.
According to the Army’s 303rd Brigade, the residents, aside from condemning the rebel presence, also urged the supporters to stop aiding or accommodating the NPA to avoid putting their families in harm’s way whenever armed encounters happen.
They also want to make a petition to evict identified individuals supporting the NPA, since most of them, if not all, are illegal settlers.
The residents expressed their intent as well to pass a resolution, to be approved by the mayor, for the city government to stop providing funds and material support to leftist organizations supporting the NPA, the Army added.
During the dialogue, the residents also mentioned that the rebels, before fleeing after the encounter last Friday, threatened to harm the residents who would report their whereabouts to the authorities.
The Army said the threat did not deter the residents from speaking up, since they are already fed up with the terrorist activities of the NPA.
Moreover, Arevalo said he “encourages the sitios, barangays, municipalities, cities, individuals, and other organizations to be inspired by the bravery of the residents of Sitio Puting Bato and follow their lead.”