BACOLOD CITY, Negros Occidental, Philippines – It took the Army and National Police until early in the morning today, 11 October 2022, to identify Romeo Nanta, also known by his nom de guerre Juanito Magbanua alias Ka Juaning, perhaps the most recognized New People’s Army guerrilla in the island for being the spokesman of local Reds in Negros.
“He was found inside a sugarcane field,” Army division chief, Brigadier General Innocencio Pasaporte, told DNX hours after the Brigade broke the news of Nanta’s death.
Pasaporte said Nanta, a former Marine according to intelligence reports, was positively identified through photographs and several former guerrillas who have surrendered to the government.
Pasaporte said the after-battle reports from the 94th Battalion showed Nanta’s body was found around 5:25pm following a gunbattle between a unit of the 94th cand an estimated 10 rebels in Medel, an upland community in the village of Carabalan, Himamaylan City.
Soldiers of the 94th based in Ayungon town, Oriental Negros have been chasing the rebels since their first clash Thursday last week, 6 October 2022.
Five firefights have occurred since that date, with the 94th sustaining two dead soldiers – Christian P Drilon and Rex G Verde, both corporals – and the wounding of six others.
Pasaporte said they had no prior information about the presence of Namnte who had long been fleeing from State security forces.
“We were only aware that there was a group of armed men but we were not aware that Nanta was among them,” he said.
When the first clash happened, however, in Sig-ang, another sitio in Carabalan, around 6am of 6 October, Pasaporte noted that the firefight lasted for 40 minutes.
He said the active defense of the rebels to last that long was “unusual,” which prompted him to direct the 94th’s commanding officer, Lt. Col. Van Donald Almonte to “press on.”
As a rifle unit engaged the rebels in the Sig-ang bivouac, a separate fire team chased the other rebels who had split into several groups.
“We were expecting them to split but a holding off action that long only meant they were delaying the troops from surrounding them,” he said.
This means, he added, that the rebels were trying to let some of those among them escape.
He described the first clash as the” most intense” but when asked if the rebels were holding a plenum and if there were other ranking cadres or fighters at Sig-ang, Pasaporte gave a curt reply.
“That remains to be seen.”