By NITZ ARANCON
and ANJANETTE VILLAMOR
GOVERNMENT and New People’s Army forces yesterday clashed again in eastern Misamis Oriental, three days after guerrillas attacked the Binuangan police station.
The military said the rebels the soldiers encountered yesterday in Lagonglong town were the same ones behind Sunday’s police station attack in neighboring Binuangan.
Col. Francis Carandang, 58th Infantry Battalion commander, said the fierce encounter took place at aroun 11 am in Sitio Kapatagan, Barangay Umagos, Lagonglong, and the sporadic exchange of firepower lasted for about 30 minutes.
No one was reportedly hurt in the encounter but Carandang said rebels retreated.
At the encounter site, soldiers found a M16 rifle and a M1 Garand rifle left behind by the withdrawing Maoist rebels.
Carandang said the military was certain that the rebels belong to the same NPA group responsible for the Dec. 3 attack in Binuangan.
He said the soldiers were conducting pursuit operations when they chanced upon the guerrillas.
Capt. Joe Patrick Martinez, 4th Infantry Division spokesman, said the military did not suffer casualties.
Maj. Gen. Ronald Villanueva, 4th Infantry Division commander, lauded the 58th IB soldiers for “aggressively bringing the fight to the NPA terrorists.”
Villanueva then ordered Brig. Gen. Eric Venoya, commander of the 403rd Brigade, to intensify security operations in Misamis Oriental and other neighboring provinces within its jurisdiction.
Carandang said the directive of Villanueva is to prevent the guerrillas from launching more offensives similar to what they did in Binuangan on Sunday.
Martinez said the military has been monitoring the NPA movements with the help of civilians in eastern Misamis Oriental.
The rebels, he said, “have no safe place to hide” and “the area is becoming smaller and smaller (for) them.”
Military officials said the rebels were “no different from terrorists” even as they accused the NPA of being motivated by “money.”
Martinez said the military learned from rebel surrenderers that the NPA has been collecting money from farmers.
“If they (farmers) cannot give the amount required, they will suffer the consequence,” said Martinez.
He said rebels have gone to the extent of burning farms and equipment, and killing farm animals owned by farmers who fail to give them money.
“The communist insurgents keep on sowing fear, extorting, harassing and oftentimes abducting civilians in the provinces,” said Martinez.