by Julius Mariveles and Mira Nicole Magbanua
BACOLOD CITY, Negros Occidental, Philippines – Camp Gerona has released the names of its two dead soldiers and the six others wounded in the latest clash in the uplands of Himamaylan, a city 60 kilometers south of here, as top Army officials and a Defense executive honored them with medals.
Army 30rd Brigade chief, General Innocencio Pasaporte praised the dead and wounded for foiling the intimidation and extortion activities of Communist rebels who have been repeatedly pestering poor upland folk by forcing them to give cash or their produce, Army officers said.
Meanwhile, the social welfare office in Himamaylan reported the opening of another evacuation center in Barangay 1 yesterday, the tenth so far, as the evacuees rose to 1,905 people or 481 families.
Himamaylan Mayor Raymund Tongson had said last week that the local government will play a supporting role for the Army by providing for the needs of the residents in evacuation centers.
“You have a government now that looks after your needs,” he said, citing the common complaint of upland folk in the past that government services are not reaching them.
He added he understands the situation remains “tactical” on the ground as soldiers continue to chase fleeing rebels across Carabalan.
The Army has set up checkpounts in several areas around Carabalan, less than an hour away from the city center, and has also imposed a blockade that prevents movement of people and goods in and out of the area, Tongson told DNX Friday after a meeting of the city disaster council.
He said another concern they will address as soon as entry is allowed is bringing in relief goods for people inside Carabalan.
Pasaporte said despite the death of the two soldiers, both corporals under the 94th Battalion based in Guihulngan City – Christian P Drilon of San Enrique, Iloilo; and Rex G Verde, of Guimaras province – “your Army in Negros will remain steadfast in defending the peace against the CPP-NPA Terrorists.”
Pasaporte leads the Brigade that has thousands of soldiers under it covering security operations in five districts in the Occidental, and one district in the Oriental, the two provinces in Negros island,
Provincial Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson, on the other hand, called the dead troopers “heroes” whose acts “for the country, the province, and our people is the highest form of bravery, sacrifice, and patriotism that we must always honor and must never forget.”
Drilon and Verde are among the soldiers who engaged the rebels in Sig-ang, an upland community in Himamaylan City on 8 October 2022.
The other troopers who are now being treated for their wounds in a private hospital here are Corporal Joey Gardose, Rolly Rama, June Fuentes, Wilson Liander – all first class privates – Private Wilchor Recaña and Sergeant Edgiel Ucag.
The release added “A follow-up search made by government forces yielded ammunition, firearms, gun parts, backpacks, personal belongings, and subversive documents left behind by fleeing NPA Terrorists.”
The Army also said “undetermined NPA insurgents were killed in the running gunbattle, with numerous more believed to be wounded as evidenced by the traces of bloodstains wherein the troops currently conducting validation and ongoing clearing pursuit operation.”
Defense Undersecretary Jose Faustino Jr.” lauded the bravery and selfless dedication of the operating troops of 94IB in securing and protecting the community of Himamaylan City against the atrocities and illegal recruitment of minors by the NPA Terrorist,” Camp Gerona added in its news release.
Faustino was one of the ranking officials wjo visited the wounded troopers and awarded them with Wounded Personnel Medals.
The other top officers who also went to the hospital were Army Lieutenant General and Armed Forces chief of staff Bartolome Vicente Bacarro Army chief and Lt. Gen. Romeo S Brawner Jr. Army Major Gen. and Third Division chief Benedict M Arevalo, and Pasaporte.