A former teacher and activist was believed to be among the New People’s Army rebels encountered by the soldiers in a series of clashes in Andap Valley in Surigao del Sur from May 14-19, 2020.
Capt. Al Anthony Pueblas, the Division Public Affairs Office chief of the 4th Infantry Brigade, told TIMES that four of the top leaders they believed were at the encounter site were Alvin Luque, alias Joaquin Jacinto, the spokesperson of Komisyon Mindanao (KOMMID), and Myrna Sularte, alias Maria Malaya, the secretary of North Eastern Mindanao Regional Committee (NEMRC).
Luque, the spokesperson of Komisyon Mindanao, was a former Ateneo de Davao University student who went on to teach at the Assumption College of Davao and was a prominent leader of several left-leaning organizations before becoming an NPA.
“They were believed to be killed because of the two laptops recovered that were owned by Ma. Malaya and Alvin,” he said.
The spokesperson said the two bodyguards of Sularte were present during one of the encounters. They were identified as Alfie Masinatao, alias Kumander Momoy, the vice commanding officer of the Regional Headquarters, NEMRC, and Lorna Pamutongan Gomez, alias Ka Momay, the medical staff of RHQ, NEMRC.
He said that two never left the side of Sularte.
“That’s our basis because where Ka Momoy and Ka Momay were, you could expect the two to be there also,” Pueblas said, adding that they are still sorting out the documents and belongings found at the encounter site for identification purposes.
He claimed that the four top-ranking leaders were believed to be fatally wounded as they withdrew in different directions. However, the Army did not recover any of the bodies to confirm its suspicions.
According to the military, 11 NPAs were killed in a series of clashes in Andap Valley.
The 401st Infantry Brigade, under the 4th Infantry “Diamond” Division, foiled an impending attack by the North Eastern Mindanao Regional Committee (NEMRC) forces in a series of clashes.
He credited the help of the tribal communities in the Andap Valley Complex, a known NPA hideout in the province of Surigao del Sur, who tipped off the soldiers on the presence of the rebels.
“They are to take advantage of the outbreak as security forces are focused on mitigating the effects of the deadly virus,” he added.
The spokesman said the security operation resulted in 11 killed, the recovery of five firearms, two laptops, one overhead projector, flash drives, external hard drives, two anti-personnel mines, hand grenades, bandoleers, assorted ammunition and magazines, handheld radios, personal belongings, assorted food and medical supplies, and subversive documents with high tactical value.
The operating troops overran the NPAs hideout that could accommodate more or less 120 individuals. The military recorded five total clashes with the same group of NPAs in Andap Valley.
The rugged terrain and the unpredictable weather made it difficult for the soldiers to pursue the rebels and possibly recover the bodies.
Maj. Gen. Franco Nemesio M. Gacal, the 4th ID commander, commended the troops for the successful operations with no major losses on the government side.
“The determination and sacrifices of our troops and the bravery and confidence of the locals had paved the way for the restoration of peace,” Gacal said. “I urged the local communities to continue supporting the government efforts for maintaining peace in the province.”
Last May 10, the 402nd IB under this command had launched security operations in the boundaries of Agusan del Norte and Misamis Oriental resulting in the death of 15 NPAs, including four top-ranking leaders of the North Central Mindanao Regional Committee (NCMRC).