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Army laughs off claim by NPA on 'battle casualties' in Negros Oriental firefight

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The Philippine Army has laughed off the claim by the New People’s Army (NPA) that soldiers “suffered casualties” during a recent firefight in Siaton, Negros Oriental when there "was none actually," thus again misleading the public.

“In the spirit of transparency and accountability, we are-duty bound to report to the people we serve. The families of soldiers also have to know who, just like the soldiers, also deserve recognition for the sacrifices made for the nation,” said Maj. Enrico Gil Ileto, spokesman of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, in a press statement sent to the Philippines News Agency on Sunday.

Ileto reacted to the statement by a certain Estrella Banagbanag, purportedly a member of the NPA based in Negros Oriental, saying the rebels inflicted casualties on Army troopers during the gun battle last June 28.

“Soldiers involved in that encounter were all safe and unhurt. Casualties incurred by the Army, both in battle and non-battle related incidents, have always been announced publicly,” Ileto said.

“The NPA is trying to boost their sagging morale, especially in southern Negros,” he said, stressing that the rebels “want to picture out to other NPA forces in the Visayas that they are still a force to be reckoned with,” he added.

Ileto also said the NPAs have kept on “advertising that they are able to inflict casualties on the Army, and not a spent force.”

But on the contrary, Ileto said the NPA rebels have been “running and hiding as what they are right now” as soldiers have been chasing them.

He said the NPA is not telling the truth “whenever they issue statements.”

“Nevertheless, we will continue to offer them peace and we open our doors in bringing them back to their normal lives,” Ileto said.

"However, we will, as always, be relentless in pursuing those who will remain to bear arms,” he stressed.

Meanwhile, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has intensified the implementation of the Internal Peace Security Plan (IPSP), its latest counter-insurgency strategy now on its second year.

The IPSP was formally launched by President Benigno S. Aquino III during the 75th AFP anniversary on December 21, 2010.

In this new strategy in winning the peace, development projects, particularly in conflict-affected areas, will be given top priority by the national government as soon as these areas are cleared of insurgents to pave the way for economic development.

Under the program, the IPSP will maximize the use of development and civil-military operations.

Equal importance is also given for the adherence of human rights by operating troops, especially during combat operations, to ensure that only defiant armed groups are the ones that pay the price for their violent acts.

By Ben Cal

 




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