BY GILBERT P. BAYORAN
The elite Special Action Force commandos of the Philippine National Police declared to have inflicted a major blow to the South West Front of the Komiteng Rehiyonal- Negros/Cebu/Bohol/Siquijor, following the death and capture of its top two leaders, respectively, in southern Negros on September 14.
Lt. Col. Ryan Manongdo, 6th Special Action Battalion (SAB) commander of the PNP SAF, yesterday said that one of the four slain rebels was identified as Christian Vargas, commanding officer of the NPA in southern Negros.
Manongdo also disclosed that Nilda Natan Bertulano, who was among the three captured rebels, is the secretary of the KR-NCBS South West Front.
Vargas and Bertulano, according to Manongdo, have pending arrest warrants for murder.
Troopers of the 61st, 64th and 65th Special Action Force (SAF), 2nd Provincial Mobile Force Company, Regional Mobile Force Battalion 6 and Army’s 15th Infantry Battalion, were conducting joint operations in response to reports by civilians on the presence of armed NPA rebels in Sitio Balik Balik, Brgy. Tabu, Ilog, when they figured in more than one hour of gunbattle with the NPA.
Manongdo said he believes that they were able to engage the main force of the KR-NCBS South West Front, estimated at 20 to 40 armed men.
With the neutralization of two top NPA leaders in southern Negros, Manongdo said there is now a vacuum of leadership at the South West Front.
Recovered from the encounter site were three M16 assault rifles, one of them with a M203 grenade launcher attached, an AK 47 assault rifle with several magazines containing ammunition, a .38 caliber revolver, several back packs containing hammocks and personal belongings, a radio handset and cellular phones.
Manongdo said that 10 other persons, who were invited for questioning, because of their presence at the encounter site, have been released from police custody, after it was found that they had no participation in the gunbattle.
Aside from Vargas, also killed in the gunbattle was Joel Fundador, alias Timot. The identities of two others have yet to be established, he added.
Bertulano is now being treated in a hospital in Kabankalan City, while a certain Cris, who was reported in serious condition, has been transferred to a hospital in Bacolod City for further treatment, Manongdo also said.
The other captured rebel identified as Jovel Mabayag is now detained at the Ilog Police Station jail, Manongdo said.
On Aug. 20, the Army’s79th Infantry Battalion also neutralized Kerima Lorena Tariman, secretary of the KR-NCBS Northern Negros Front, who, with her comrade, also died in an encounter in Brgy. Kapitan Ramon, Silay City, Negros Occidental.
PNP chief Gen. Guillermo Lorenzo Eleazar, in a statement issued by the PNP Public Information Office, commended the PNP SAF, RPSB6 , 2nd PMFC and 15th Infantry Battalion for their successful operations against the NPA in southern Negros.
Eleazar said they received information that the NPA were recruiting new members in the area when they engaged in a gunbattle with government troopers.
Manongdo said that pursuit operations against the fleeing rebels are still underway as of this time.*