A MEMBER of the Philippine Army’s Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) was gunned down in an encounter between soldiers and suspected members of the New People’s Army (NPA) at around 3 p.m. of Sept 9, 2018.
Virgilio Loraña, 41, of Barangay Monte-Magapa, Janiuay, Iloilo was killed at Barangay Agcapore, a hinterland village 20 kilometers away from Janiuay town proper, said Senior Insp. John Paul Guay, Janiuay police chief.
Loraña was a CAFGU member based in Barangay Jayobo, Lambunao town.
Guay said the victim suffered a gunshot wound on his back and a stab injury on the right portion of his abdomen.
He was airlifted to the 301st Infantry Battalion headquarters in Dingle, Iloilo at 6:30 p.m. and later rushed to the Iloilo Provincial Hospital in Pototan where he was declared dead on arrival.
According to Lieutenant Colonel Sesinando Magbalot Jr, 61st Infantry Battalion (IB) commander, incessant rains restrained Army helicopters from flying to the encounter site.
Magbalot said Army personnel from 61IB and Jayobo CAFGU Active Auxiliary (CAA) Detachment were conducting security patrol when they learned that around 10 to 15 rebels were present at the Agcarope village.
Loraña was part of the team because he knew the terrain.
Amid heavy rains, the government troops waited for around 30 minutes before pursuing the suspected rebels.
Magbalot said there were only five houses in the area. The rebels were believed to have stayed at the house of Barangay Kagawad Romulo Lentija while the others were in a house with three children inside.
The rebels are allegedly part of Baloy Platoon, Sangay Partido Pampropaganda of the NPA- Komiteng Rehiyon Panay’s Central Front Committee.
“We don’t want any civilians to get hit during the exchange of fire. We were restrained from doing our offensives,” Magbalot added.
At the first burst of gunfire, the rebels took Lentija and another barangay official, Gilbert Sales, as hostages.
“We could not really pursue them because they took two persons as human shields,” Magbalot said.
The rebels later released Lentija and Sales.
Magbalot said a 15-minute firefight ensued before the rebels withdrew.
It is believed that the fleeing rebels caught up with Loraña then shot and stabbed him.
“We saw that there were two rebels who got wounded during the firefight,” Magbalot said.
But he was not discounting that the number of wounded rebels might be higher as they left valuable items while withdrawing.
Recovered from the encounter site were two M16 Armalite rifles; an AK47 assault rifle; two improvised explosive devices (IEDs); several backpacks with two laptops; and materials for IED making.
A bag of breads and canned goods were also found.
“Firearms are important to their existence. For them to leave it, they must have sustained serious injuries,” Magbalot said.
After the incident, Colonel Benedict Arevalo, 301st IB commander, said additional troops from the 33rd Division Reconnaissance Company were deployed using two helicopters from the Philippine Air Force for pursuit operations.
The encounter is the ninth since July 21.
Meanwhile, classes in some schools in Janiuay, Iloilo were cancelled Monday following the encounter.
The suspension affected elementary and high school students in 16 villages.
Janiuay Mayor Jose “Jojo” de Paula identified these villages as Agcarope, the area where the encounter happened; Canawilli, Pararinga, Pangilihan, Monte Magapa, Cunsad, Aglobong, Panuran, Anhawan, Atimonan, Barasalon, Canawillan, Quipot, Ubian, Yabon, and Kuyot.
In his Facebook post Sunday evening, De Paula said the suspension was imposed after consultation with the Police Community Relations Janiuay Municipal Police Station (PCR Janiuay MPS);The Regional Public Safety Battalion (RPSB)-6; and Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (MDRRMO) chief and without the Report and Clearance of Philippine Army operating in the conflict areas.”
De Paula said they also took into consideration the ongoing power interruption in the area.
“Our Municipal Radio Communications and Repeater is also blacked out because of reported sabotage. It was done for purposes of safety and protection of our beloved teachers, students, and constituents,” he added.
The mayor said the suspension is pursuant to Section 16 of Republic Act 7160 (Local Government Code of the Philippines) which states that “every local government unit shall exercise the powers expressly granted, those necessarily implied there from, as well as powers necessary, appropriate, or incidental for its efficient and effective governance, and those which are essential to the promotion of the general welfare.”