LEGAZPI CITY ,Philippines – Four soldiers and a civilian were killed when at least 40 suspected New People’s Army (NPA) rebels attacked a group of Army soldiers at a barangay hall in Labo, Camarines Norte at around 12:30 p.m. on Sunday.
Maj. Angelo Guzman, spokesperson for the 9th Infantry Division, identified the fatalities in the 40-minute encounter as Cpl. Amado Perillo, 30; Pfcs. Paulo Orticio, 27; Teodoro Ojeda, 26; and Sonecio Potian, 22; and civilian Francisco Ruales, 49.
Pfc. Leland Besada and Marlon Matibag, 28, were hit by stray bullets but are in stable condition at the Camarines Norte Provincial Hospital.
Residents said they saw the rebels carrying at least three of their dead comrades as they fled.
Labo police chief Insector Eusebio Arturo Estopares said the Army soldiers were holding a dialogue with officials and residents of the barangay when the rebels shot them.
Greg Bañares, spokesman for the National Democratic Front in Bicol, confirmed the attack in a radio interview, saying it was in retaliation for the alleged massacre of a family of farmers in Camarines Norte last Feb. 25.
But he claimed that none of their comrades were killed in the firefight.
Col. Richard Lagrana, commander of the 902nd Infantry Brigade, ordered members of the 49th Infantry Batallion to launch a manhunt for the suspects.
He also directed the deployment of additional troops in the area. – Celso Amo, Cet Dematera, Francis Elevado -