BACOLOD CITY, Negros Occidental, Philippines – There was supposed to be a second volley of gunfire, the “finishing” part for the seven policemen who were in the kill zone, the center of an ambush area where those inside it are supposed to be killed.
Like what happened to seven members of the town police in Binalbagan, a municipality around 80 kilometers south of here.
But it was not to be. The guns of the rebels did not fire.
It was around 7am, 13 February, the eve of Valentine’s Day and the heat was not yet stifling in Candida, an upland sub-village called sitio in Hiligaynon.
The team was making its way to a community where the night before, a man was killed, possibly by the same suspected members of the New People’s Army who ambushed the troopers.
Suddenly, as the patrol car, a back to back pickup, passed along a sugarcane field, there was an explosion.
“It was an improvised explosive device (IED) possibly set off manually by a rebel hiding among the sugarcanes,” town police chief, Major Ellendie Rebusquillo told DNX based on the initial results of the probe by ordnance experts at the ambush site.
As the IED went off, the shrapnels of the IED went through the vehicle door and hit deputy police chief, Lt. Richard Casalan whose hand was injured in the blast.
Along with the IED explosion came the first burst of automatic rifle fire from the armed men, Rebusquillo says, recounting testimonies of the survivors.
Only three of the seven policemen had automatic rifles, the others only pistols.
Rebusquillo adds the town is not a “high risk” area which explains why they have limited firearms.
But the police fought back.
After the first burst of rifle fire, more rebels emerged from some of the houses in the area and apparently wanted to finish off the wounded policemen, Rebusquillo says.
What was supposed to be easy pickings for the rebels went awry.
“Their guns did not fire,” Rebusquillo says, quoting the survivors.
The rebels backed off.
A day after the ambush, Rebusquillo is looking at the possibility that the killing of Bertito Roso by the same armed men was meant to lure them into the ambush.
“Perhaps the bullets of the rebels were duds,” he says.
Or perhaps, Rebusquillo adds, “someone above was watching over them.”