Another armed encounter ensued last April 10 in the Bicol region after a platoon of the 2nd Infantry Battalion and PNP led by 2Lt. Jay Zachary Tunguia attempted to encircle an NPA unit in Barangay Cabas-an, Aroroy, Masbate. This was 13th attack perpetrated by Duterte’s forces since his declaration of a unilateral ceasefire last month.
In its field report, the NPA-Masbate disclosed that around 30 soldiers and policemen were deployed to the said village at around 5:00 p.m. to encircle a squad of NPA fighters who just finished conducting a Covid-19 information drive and were set to return to camp.
As combat troops were already closing in, the Red fighters were left with no other option but to conduct active defense maneuvers to protect themselves and the residents. This resulted in a 30-minute skirmish which resulted in at least 3 casualties on the side of the military and police, with 1 dead and 2 wounded. The NPA squad suffered no casualty.
In retaliation, the soldiers and policemen arbitrarily arrested residents Romnick Vargas, Juan Dikino and Alden Javier who they paraded as members of the people’s militia. They also burned the house of Basyon Meralles and forcibly evicted residents Jun Dikino and Marven “Binoy” Grazil from the village.
Residents and local officials have criticized the 2nd IB for conducting patrol operations in the area when they were instructed by the local government to station themselves at the Masbate ports to prevent the entry of possible Covid-19 travelers. They point out that there are no reported infections in the hinterland areas of Masbate.
To save face, Joint Task Force Bicolandia spokesperson Maj. Gen. Fernando Trinidad claimed that his troops were the ones attacked by the NPA.
Contrary to this lie, however, AFP and PNP troops have continued to occupy and conduct counter-insurgency operations in at least 23 villages in the towns Mandaon, Claveria, San Pascual, Monreal, San Fernando, San Jacinto, Cawayan and Batuan.