The 5th Special Forces Battalion of the Philippine Army raided a communist guerrilla hideout and killed five members, including an explosives expert, of the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the outlawed Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). 

Philippines military officials identified the dead as Romeo Libron, the NPA’s chief of ordnance of the NPA in the Mindanao region, his wife Merly, his deputy Rogelio Magsaya and two fighters.

Filipino troops had tracked down the group and were attempting to place them under arrest when the group opened fire. The Special Forces troops returned fire mortally wounding the insurgents. 

“They were killed following a law enforcement operation shortly before 5 a.m. in the village of Ned in the town of Lake Sebu of South Cotabato province,” Lt. Col. Randy Banaag, commander of the 5th SF Bn, told reporters.

“Troops were fired upon by an undetermined number of armed men, prompting our men to return fire,” Banaag specified. “They were injured. We brought them to the hospital but [they] were declared dead on arrival.”

Banaag added that local residents had tipped off the army that the communist guerrillas were in the area on a recruitment drive. After the operation, the SF troops recovered weapons, ammunition, as well as homemade explosives constructed by Libron at the site of the raid. 

Floro Gandam, the mayor of the town where the raid took place, said that the NPA guerrillas, based in the Compostela Valley in Davao de Oro province, were trying to recruit “new fighters” for the armed wing of the outlawed Maoist-led Communist Party of the Philippines.

When Philippines’ President Rodrigo Duterte was first elected he had reached out to the CPP and the NPA to negotiate peace. Yet, he accused the communist insurgents of acting in bad faith during the negotiations and carrying out attacks against Filippino soldiers who were conducting humanitarian missions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. This derailed the negotiations. Now, the battle against the CPP continues unabated.