By Priam Nepomuceno and Jason De Asis

CLASH. Soldiers recover various firearms, subversive documents, and personal belongings from New People’s Army rebels following a clash in Barangay Malbang, Pantabangan, Nueva Ecija on Wednesday (June 26, 2024). The Philippine Army’s 703rd Infantry Brigade on Thursday (June 27) said seven communist rebels were killed in the encounter. (Photo courtesy of 703rd Infantry Brigade, Philippine Army)

MANILA – At least seven communist rebels were killed in an encounter with government forces in Nueva Ecija province on Wednesday afternoon.

In a Facebook post Thursday, the Philippine Army’s 703rd Infantry Brigade said the clash between soldiers from the 84th Infantry Battalion and rebels of the Komiteng Rehiyong Gitnang Luzon of the New People’s Army (NPA) took place in Barangay Malbang in the town of Pantabangan.

It said Wednesday’s clash was an offshoot of the June 20 military air operation against the rebels in the remote area of Sitio Marikit East, Barangay Abuyo, Alfonso Castañeda, Nueva Vizcaya.

“Initial information disclosed that upon clearing the area, operating troops recovered three M-14 rifles, six M-16 rifles, one M16 with M-203 attached rifle, one low-powered firearm, subversive documents, and personal belongings from the encounter site,” the 703rd Infantry Brigade said.

In an interview, 703rd Infantry Brigade commander, Brig. Gen. Joseph Norwin D. Pasamonte said there were no casualties among the soldiers, while the top commanders of the Komiteng Rehiyong Gitnang Luzon and the dismantled Komiteng Larangang Guerilla Sierra Madre were among the slain rebels.

Pasamonte said among those killed were Hilario Guiuo, who has a PHP5-million bounty, and Harold Minoza, alias Kumander Luzon, of the dismantled KLG-SM, formerly based in Aurora province.

He attributed the success of the operation to the active cooperation of the peace-loving community in Pantabangan who work hand-in-hand with the security sector to preserve the peace.

“The community’s active cooperation has a big impact on the results of this operation. Their full support to the Army has paved the way to more significant peace and security accomplishments in our Area of Operations. We assure you our strong commitment to the community in preserving the peace that we have been working on for years,” Pasamonte said.

He urged the remaining members of the communist terrorist group (CTG) to surrender and grab the opportunities offered by the government to live a new life.

“I am deeply saddened that our brother Filipinos died because of the trickery of the CTG. We can prevent further loss of lives if the remaining members would only join us in our mainstream society. Nandito kami handang ipagtanggol ang ating mga kababayang ang nais lamang ay kapayapaan at katiwasayan (We are here to defend our countrymen who only wanted peace and order),” he said.

Meanwhile, 84th Infantry Battalion commander Lt. Col. Jerald Reyes said the operation is part of the military’s efforts to neutralize the rebels who sow fear among the people of Nueva Ecija. (PNA)