MILAGROS, Masbate (Aug 8, 2012) - Communist rebels attacked the Army rescue teams which were sent for disaster response operations in Palanas town here at 6:10am today.
Lt Col Julian C Pacatan, the Commanding Officer of the 9IB, said that the soldiers were part of the Disaster Response Operations platoon that was deployed to identified flood-prone areas in the town of Palanas.
He said that his troops proceeded to the area despite persistent reports that a small band of communist rebels were out to conduct atrocities against the lightly-armed rescue team.
The soldiers led by 1st Lt. Ronnie Garchitorena and 2nd Lt Severato Mazon were proceeding towards Intusan village when the gunfiring began, initiated by the rebels who were occcupied covered positions.
The soldiers responded with fires and engaged the rebels in a firefight, repulsing the attackers after about 20 mins of trading fires with them.
The rebels fled but left behind a dead comrade and some war materials. No one was hurt among the Army rescue team members.
The troops seized an M14 Assault Rifle, an M16 Armalite Rifle and two landmines.
At around 11:30am, another encounter erupted when the pursuing elements clashed with the same group of rebels about 4kms away, in the same village. The rebels immediately fled after about 5 minutes of exchanging fires with the soldiers, dragging with them more casualties. An M1 Garand Rifle and two more landmines were confiscated by the soldiers.
Pacatan said that the civilians claimed that the rebels were also collecting money and foodstuff from them, claiming that these were intended for disaster victims. "The civilians are already fed up by these extortion activities, prompting them to report these to the government forces. Our soldiers are always ready to respond to these reports, showing that we care for the people," said Pacatan.
Col Felix J Castro Jr., the Commander of the 903rdBrigade directed Col Pacatan to conduct pursuit operations to arrest the rebels in coordination with the local police.
Castro has also directed the troops to remain vigilant not only against the rebels but also in responding to the calls for rescue operations, disaster relief and humanitarian assistance in communities affected by the continuous rains.