BACOLOD CITY—Nineteen persons were arrested on Thursday because they were allegedly involved in a gun battle with Army troops. Colonel Francisco Patrimonio, 302nd Infantry Brigade commander, said they arrested 19 persons at the encounter site in Sitio Mahopaho, Barangay (village) San Agustin, Isabela town, Negros Occidental. Isabela town is located 78.2 kilometers south of Bacolod City.
Two soldiers, Private First Class Dennis Acosta and Pfc. Oliver Grecia, died in the encounter. Three of the four injured soldiers were 2nd Lt. Shannon Pamitan, Sgt. Romeo Castellano and Pfc. Justin Esquibel, all assigned at the 11th Infantry Battalion (IB). But Karapatan-Negros secretary general Fred Cana said Army soldiers committed human rights violations by arresting civilians they were supposed to protect. Patrimonio, however, noted that the arrested persons were in a remote area where there were no houses.
“Why were they (the alleged rebels) in the encounter site?” Patrimonio asked. He added that they would still pursue the filing of criminal charges against the 19 arrested persons, including three who claimed they were minors. Patrimonio said the 19 persons could be held liable for the murder of the two soldiers and the attempt to kill four other government troops.
The Army on Thursday turned over the arrested persons to the Isabela police for further investigation. Inspector Jason Manguilimutan, Isabela police chief, on Friday said the 19 persons endorsed to them were subjected to paraffin tests by the Philippine National Police Crime Laboratory personnel to determine if they have fired guns. Manguilimutan said they would assist the Army only in the filing of the case against the arrested persons.
After the gun battle between 11th IB soldiers led by 1st Lt. Von Ryan Gomez and about 40 alleged armed rebels, the military seized a camp in the same barangay that could accommodate 50 persons that was believed to have been used by the New People’s Army (NPA). The Army soldiers recovered from the camp several combat packs, a .45 cal. pistol with ammunition, magazines of M14 and M16 assault rifles, antigovernment documents and a CPP-NPA flag, among others.