From the Philippine Star (Dec 14, 2019): 2 NPA fighters killed in clashes (By Michael Punongbayan)
Two New People’s Army (NPA) fighters were killed in two separate encounters between rebel groups and government troops in Agusan del Norte and Misamis Oriental.
The military identified the fatalities yesterday as Mervin Namatidong, 20, of Sitio Simontanan, Esperanza, Agusan del Sur and Benjie Tandayon, 24, of Sito Lantad, Barangay Kibanban, Balingasag, Missamis Oriental.
Maj. Reggie Ho, public affairs office chief of the 4th Infantry Division (ID), said the bodies were turned over to their respective families in coordination with local government units (LGUs).
The two encounters happened in the hinterlands of Sitio San Jose, Barangay Durian, Las Nieves, Agusan del Norte on Dec. 4 and in Mt. Obulan, Barangay Banglay, Lagonglong, Misamis Oriental on Dec. 10.
Ho said soldiers overran an NPA hideout and seized nine firearms, including two M653 rifles, three M16 rifles, two AK47 rifles, an M1 Garand rifle and a .22-caliber rifle with ammunition.
Also recovered were four laptops, a generator set, medicines, food supplies, backpacks with personal belongings and various documents.
Maj. Gen Franco Nemesio Gacal, commander of the 4th ID, said the military expresses its deepest sympathy to the bereaved families of the slain NPA members.
Meanwhile, eight NPA members, two of them minors, surrendered to soldiers and police officers at General Nakar, Quezon on Thursday.
The former rebels turned over two shotguns, a .45-caliber pistol and a .38-caliber revolver to the security forces.
Col. Alex Rillera, commander of the 202nd Infantry Brigade, which has operational jurisdiction over the area, said that one of the minors is a 13-year-old boy while the other is a 17-year-old who was forced to join the underground movement when he was 15 years old.
“They were forced by the rebels to join their ranks and were forbidden to leave a terrorist camp under threat of severe repercussions to their families,” he said.
The military’s records show that the two minors are the fourth and fifth child warriors to be rescued in less than two months.
Maj. Gen. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos Jr, acting commander of the AFP’s Southern Luzon Command, attributed the spate of surrenders to the whole-of-nation approach strategy, which the government has adapted to end local communist armed conflict.
“There are written and unwritten rules in warfare that give emphasis to the protection of women and children regardless of whether you are pro- or anti government,” he said.
The child warriors will be brought to the Department of Social Welfare and Development.