COTABATO CITY – A communist rebel was killed while an undetermined number of his comrades were injured in a clash with government troops following a botched plan to steal the cash aid meant for beneficiaries of the social amelioration program (SAP) in Tulunan, North Cotabato on Friday.
Major Jun Napat, Tulunan police chief, said the town’s social workers, escorted by police and soldiers, were to proceed to Barangay Tuburan, an upland community known to be infiltrated by communist rebels, to distribute SAP funds to indigent residents when tipped of the plan of the New People’s Army (NPA).
“The social workers and their escorts were on board separate police and military vehicles when they were told of an impending ambush by the NPA (rebels) and plot to grab the SAP funds,” Napat said in an interview.
A team of 39th Infantry Battalion troopers, part of the reconnaissance patrol, figured in a clash with an undetermined number of rebels at 5:30 a.m.
“They were positioned on both sides of the highway ready for an ambush when foot patrol soldiers saw them,” he said, adding that a 30-minute firefight ensued.
There was no reported casualty on the government’s side.
Citing information from village officials, Napat said one rebel was slain but his body was taken by his companions.
He identified the NPA leader who was to lead the ambush and robbery as Eusebio Cranzo of the NPA Guerilla Front 72.
Police and soldiers recovered bloodied spent shells for an AK-47 rifle, the rebels’ signature firearm, and also empty shells for an M-203 grenade launcher and an M16 rifle.
Local social work officials decided to postpone the distribution of the SAP and were studying the possibility of conducting it in a nearby and safer village.
The NPA, together with the Communist Party of the Philippines, is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines. (PNA)