By Sarwell Meniano

SLAIN. Police investigators examine the bodies of two members of the New People’s Army who were killed in a clash with rebels on Saturday (Feb. 10, 2024). Both rebels have been identified as notorious for plotting the murder of former rebels. (Photo courtesy of Philippine Army)

TACLOBAN CITY – A notorious top leader of the New People’s Army (NPA) and a combatant were killed in a clash with soldiers in upland Tinag-an village in Albuera, Leyte on Saturday morning after years of tracking down their locations in the jungles of Leyte Island, the Philippine Army reported.

The military identified the slain rebels as Rolando Caballera, a member of the NPA’s regional executive committee in Eastern Visayas, and Crispolo Agunos Jr., a platoon member.

Caballera has a pending warrant of arrest for plotting the killing of several comrades who have surrendered to the government, said Brig. Gen. Noel Vestuir, commander of the Army’s 802nd Infantry Brigade.

“The deaths of these two notorious NPA terrorists are a result of the firm resolve and commitment of our people to prevent the recovery efforts of NPA remnants in their community. Through the timely information provided by some residents, we have pinpointed the area where these terrorists hide. Indeed, we attain the situation that the people are inhospitable to these NPA terrorists,” Vestuir said in a phone interview.

Caballera is from Luneta village in Lapaz, Leyte, while Agunos is from Rizal village in Kananga, Leyte.

Lt. Col. Charlie Saclot, commander of the Army’s 93rd Infantry Battalion, said residents have repeatedly reported to them about the presence of armed men conducting extortion activities.

“The details and timely information of NPA-sighted locations, movements, and activities provided by civilians enabled our patrolling troops to track their location, which resulted in a brief exchange of fires that lasted for about 15 minutes,” Saclot said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Vestuir said the 802nd Brigade’s headquarters is now back in Ormoc City from Borongan City in Eastern Samar as part of its effort to maintain peace in areas cleared of NPA threats.

The Army leadership decided to transfer the brigade from Ormoc to Borongan in May last year.

The unit returned to Ormoc last Jan. 16.

“The two brigades (801st and 803rd) are focused on fighting rebels in Samar provinces. Our task is to prevent the recovery attempts of the NPA in Leyte, some parts of Samar, and some parts of Eastern Samar,” Vestuir added.

The 801st Brigade is based in Hinabangan, Samar, while the 803rd Brigade is based in Catarman, Northern Samar. (PNA)