Tacloban City—Army troops in Eastern Visayas repelled the New People’s Army (NPA) from sowing chaos during the Christmas celebration in Northern Samar.
Captain Reynaldo Aragones Jr., chief of the Division Public Affairs Office of the 8th Infantry Division based in Catbalogan City, said government troops had killed a high-ranking rebel leader and arrested another member during five successive encounters in San Isidro town from December 21 to 24.
Personnel from the 43rd Infantry Battalion (IB) had their first encounter on December 21 in Barangay Happy Valley, San Isidro.
The 30-minute gunfight resulted in the death of a certain Jerry Lutao, alias Apple, whose body was left behind by the retreating comrades, the army said in a statement.
The troops also overran an NPA camp and seized firearms, improvised explosive devices, subversive documents, and other supplies.
On December 22, the troops encountered another six alleged rebels in the vicinity of the same barangay.
No one was killed or hurt on the government side while an undetermined casualty on the enemy's side was reported during the 10-minute firefight, according to Aragones.
Five hours later, the same army troops clashed with another group of rebels in the vicinity of Sitio Agsam, Barangay Happy Valley.
The soldiers also seized three firearms, ammunition, mobile phones, and backpacks.
On December 23, government troops encountered another group of rebels at the vicinity of Km 14 of the same barangay.
One rebel, identified as 36-year-old Jonas Dela Torre alias Jonel, was wounded during the clash.
He was given first aid, while troops also recovered his AK47 rifle, according to Aragones in a statement.
Hours before Christmas Eve, soldiers also engaged in a 15-minute gunfight with three suspected rebels in Barangay Happy Valley.
Aragones said no casualties were reported on the government side, while bloodstains were found on the enemy's route of withdrawal.
The troops also recovered two M16 rifles, magazines, ammunition, and one improvised hand grenade.
Lieutenant Colonel Raymundo Picut Jr., commanding officer of the 43rd IB, said they are “closely monitoring the activities” of the rebel group.
Meanwhile, Major General Pio Dinoso III, 8th ID commander, assured the residents of the region that government troops “will be guarding communities to ensure a meaningful and peaceful Christmas celebration.”