MALAYBALAY CITY, Bukidnon, Feb. 24 (PIA) - Government troops operating in Mt Kalatungan in the southwest of Bukidnon confirmed that a New People's Army (NPA) leader was killed in a military operation last February 18 following residents' reports on the presence of NPA rebels whom they revealed to have been planning tactical attacks targeting civilian compounds and vital economic installations in the area.
Days later, the NPA released a statement that a certain Renato Tilucan alias Kumander Kidlat/Ilaw or Sidlak was killed in the said focused military operation.
Col. Ferdinand Barandon, the newly installed 403rd Brigade commander said the government troops had tough times repositioning its fighting weapons directed at the enemy because the NPA hideouts are protected by the "Ottawa Convention or Mine Ban Treaty," which bans the use of Anti-Personnel Mines (APM).
"Since our soldiers cannot penetrate deep into enemies' territory, the government forces had to use 'close air support'. Hence, soldiers on the ground were able to launch an attack," the brigade commander said.
Throughout clearing operations in the NPA's lair at Valencia City hinterlands' vicinity (Mt. Kalatungan), the soldiers discovered the remains of said NPA leader Renato Tilucan and seized an R4 rifle, APMs, SIM cards, a Baofeng radio, notes, and subversive documents.
It can be recalled that on January 18 last year, a group of armed NPAs attacked an undefended farm lot at Sitio Cole, Brgy Lilingayon, Valencia City, Bukidnon. They destroyed civilian-owned properties by chopping down around 8,500 banana trees and burned a boom spray-truck of a plantation firm. Valencia City police reports also showed that the said NPAs confiscated the mobile phones of boom truck operators.
"We cannot allow these terrorists to launch another attack against civilians. Likewise, we cannot allow our soldiers to be killed by the APM they set up while waiting for their cue to attack civilian business establishments they intend to impose extortion. We protect communities from threat and intimidation of these terrorists," Col. Barandon said.
Contrary to the accusation of human rights group 'Karapatan' that the Army unit violated the International Humanitarian Law (IHL), the brigade commander said "the combat zone was in the woods, which is very far from the next sub-village. Besides, we attacked military targets who are armed terrorists. Our fires were also directed to detonate the real IHL banned APM that the NPA used. That is why they only had one reported casualty-maybe the one nearest to the APM they planted that got detonated. With this, we challenge 'Karapatan' to condemn the NPA for using APM if they really are impartial."
Barandon said that the loss of CPP-NPAs mass base made the troopers' tasks easier and quicker, especially in monitoring NPAs movements. He explained that it is the NPA's mass supporters that want them (CPP-NPA) out of communities.
"I am again appealing to all NPA members to come home. Their children, parents, and siblings have long been waiting for them to take the road to peace. Our government will assist them to live a new life through Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program" Barandon said. (403rd Bde, PA/RLRB, PIA Bukidnon)