Injured NPA leader, female rebel cornered in Sta. Lucia village

BAGUIO CITY — A fleeing New People’s Army (NPA) leader injured in the head during fierce gunfights with government troops along the borders of Candon City and Sta Lucia in Ilocos Sur a week ago was cornered at a village in Sta Lucia town together with a female rebel.

Joel Sibalo Banganan, 37, alias “Ka Payas”, alleged commander of the NPA’s Kilusang Larangang Gerilya (KLG) North Abra and a native of barangay Mataragan, Malibcong, Abra, together with Ranny Velle Ballalo Urbis, 35, alias “Ka Ester, Maria, Nise”, alleged deputy secretary of the KLG South Ilocos Sur (SIS), a native of barangay Guimod Norte, San Juan, Ilocos Sur, were tracked by policemen and soldiers at barangay Damacuag, Sta Lucia around 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 14.

Ilocos Sur police director Col. Ronald Tagao said Banganan suffered a superficial head injury during the Aug. 7 firefight with government troopers along the borders of Candon City and Sta Lucia that lasted for almost a day and resulted in the death of of five rebels, an Army trooper and another civilian suspected by the rebels as a government intelligence operative.

According to Col. Tagao, Banganan is wanted by authorities for rebellion while Urbis is wanted for frustrated murder at a court in Mt. Province and in Abra. Both were brought to the Sta Cruz town jail.

Fresh firefight along the boundaries of Gregorio del Pilar and San Emilio towns in Ilocos Sur was also reported on Friday morning.

An M16 rifle was recovered by soldiers from the Philippine Army’s 91st Brigade Reconnaissance Company when they fought with 7 communist guerillas from the KLG Southern Ilocos Sur under rebel leader “Ka Nero” at around 8:30 a.m. Soldiers also seized assorted medicines, an AM/FM radio, an AK47 7.62 mm rifle magazine and personal belongings.

According to the 7th Infantry Division, no one from the government side was hurt during Friday’s firefight. Several rebels were allegedly killed but no official count is available as pursuit operations are still ongoing during the filing of this report.

The same group suffered five casualties from the first reported firefight that took place near the by-pass road along the borders of Candon City and Sta. Lucia town. Those killed were identified by authorities as:  Edgar Justo, alias “Ka Nardo”, from Bugnay, Candon City and team leader of 15 guerillas that fought soldiers;  Rolando Marvil alias “Ka Eugene”, also from Bugnay, Candon City; Joy Albet alias “Ka Adel”, also from Candon; Rogelio Capulac alias “Ka Asiong and Ka Witiwit”, from Sta Cruz town; and a still unidentified female rebel only known as “Ka Maymay”, alleged political and medical officer.

Brigadier General Audrey Pasia, commander of the 702nd brigade who has been supervising the ongoing pursuit operations vowed, “(the operations) against the group of Ka Nero will continue until we get all of them. It is only a matter of time before we can corner them again and deliver the final blow for their complete decimation.”

7th Infantry Division commander, Major General Alfredo Rosario Jr. appealed to the remaining rebels under the KLG-SIS to surrender before it is too late.

The military earlier claimed that government interventions including a recent proclamation by Ilocos Sur provincial government declaring rebels as “persona-non-grata” has weakened the underground rebel movement in the area. ●