RPOC chair Evardone lauded the “successful operation”

TACLOBAN CITY-At least 16 members of the New People’s Army(NPA), four of them women, were killed during an almost 14-hour arm encounter with government troops in a remote village in Dolores town, Eastern Samar on Monday (August 16).
Major Gen. Pio Diñoso III, the commanding officer of the 8th Infantry Division based in Catbalogan City, Samar, said that the long hours of battle was an indication that the rebels, numbering around 50, were protecting their camp and a high-ranking leader.
Still, he dismissed speculations that the incident could have hit civilians living in Barangay Osmeña, the site of the encounter, saying the rebel camp was located three kilometers away from where the villagers reside and the military used  drones and ‘bomb-precision’ when it conducted an airstrike.
“This is a tactical success for us in our campaign against members of the New People’s Army not only in Eastern Samar but for the rest of Samar Island,” Diñoso said during an online interview.
Based on his report, the arm encounter started around 4 am and ended at around 5 pm on Monday in the outskirts of Brgy. Osmeña, 40 kms away from the town proper.
“The (arm battle) took that so long because either they were trying to protect a high-ranking leader and due to their big number, around 50 at least,” Diñoso said.
He described the camp as the NPA’s bomb-making facility with makeshifts and even a training hall. The camp could existed for years now, he added.
Diñoso said that they have to seek assistance from the Air Force for them to conduct an airstrike as he claimed that they could not just enter the camp as it could be surrounded with landmines which could have resulted to deaths of his troops instead.
He, however, could not say yet if what he claimed a high-ranking leader could be one of those killed, four of them were women.
The dead bodies of the rebels, as of press time, are still being retrieved from the site of the incident and would be turn over to the municipal government of Dolores with the members of the scene of the crime operatives(Soco) tasked to help identify their identities.
Diñoso said that they would help in providing decent and formal burial to the dead rebels and to their families.
He also said that members of the 52nd Infantry Battalion, which engaged the rebels, are still scouring the area for possible NPA members who either were killed or wounded.
No casualty was reported on the government troops who were able to recover 29 high powered firearms and several improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
Diñoso also assured the residents of Osmeña of their security as he noted of a possible retaliation from the rebels. It was through the information from the civilians which led for the military to discover the hideout of the rebels.
Meantime, Eastern Samar Governor Ben Evardone lauded the military and the civilians for a ‘very successful operations’ against the rebels.
“Had it not for close cooperation between the military and the local population, the campaign against the communist would not have been successful,” he said.
“I hope that this kind of close collaboration will continue so that we can attain peace and development in our province and country,” Evardone, who also chairs the Regional Peace and Order Council, said.
Evardone and Diñoso called the rebels to surrender their arms and return to the folds of the law and avail the program offered by the government like livelihood and financial assistance for them to start a new life.