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7 NPAs fall in firefight with soldiers in Antique

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Seven communists, including three of their leaders, reportedly involved in extortion activities, were killed in an encounter with government troops in Barangay Atabay in San Jose de Buenavista, Antique on Wednesday.

Those slain in the 30-minute firefight that started at around 12:10 a.m. belonged to the Regional Taxation Implementing Group (RTIG) of the Komiteng Rehiyon Panay (KRP) of the Communist Party of the Philippine – New People’s Army – National Democratic Front of the Philippines (CPP-NPA-NDFP), which is behind the planning and extortion activities, Chief Supt. John C. Bulalacao, Director of Police Regional Office 6 (Western Visayas), said in a press conference at the Antique Provincial Police Office (APPO) on Wednesday.

No government trooper was wounded in the firefight.

Killed were: Jason E. Talibo Estopido alias “Bebe”, 27; Jason T. Sanchez, 28; and Rene A. Yap, 60; Karen C. Ceralvo alias “Liway”, 41; Liezel Badiola alias “Mayang”; Felix V. Salditos, 60; and an unidentified companion.

Talibo was the finance officer of the Southern Front of the KRP while Sanchez was assistant finance officer.

Badiola, on the other hand, was the cultural staff and political officer of the group.

Joint teams from the San Jose Municipal Police, Antique Provincial Mobile Force Company, and the 301st Brigade Intelligence Task Group were supposed to serve an arrest warrant for frustrated murder to Talibo when the rebels decided to fight back by hurling an explosive.

Joven Ceralvo, alias “Ka Lex”, who is believed to be the husband of Karen and subject of the arrest warrant for frustrated murder, was able to escape.

“The group was monitored in the area by the intelligence personnel three weeks ago and based on information, the group is plotting to raid San Jose Municipal Police Station,” Bulalacao said.

Senior Supt. Leo Irwin Agpangan, APPO Director, said aside from the tablets, cellphones, knapsacks and weapons retrieved from an abandoned chapel in Atabay, they learned that the male Ceralvo was carrying a sack believed to be containing weapons and belongings.

“Continuous manhunt operation is being launched in pursuit of the personalities who fled from the encounter,” said Bulalacao, who also warned the public against possible retaliation of the revolutionary group.

During the press conference, Bulalacao showed extortion letters and money amounting to PHP38,000, presumed to be the rebels’ collection from businessmen and other victims.

Meanwhile, Col. Benedict M. Arevalo, commander of the Philippine Army’s 301st Brigade, said the revolutionary group is a mobile force they had been tracking for some time.

“They must be here to audit the area for extortion,” he said.

Bulalacao added that the Philippine National Police, together with the Armed Forces of the Philippines, with the support of the Antique provincial government will not falter in their anti-insurgency efforts. (PNA)