4 Air Force men, 3 rebs killed in Batangas raid

CALACA, Batangas — Four soldiers and three communist guerrillas were killed after New People’s Army (NPA) rebels launched a pre- dawn attack on a military detachment guarding a National Power Corp. (Napocor) power plant here yesterday.

The attack came after rebel spokesman Gregorio "Ka Roger" Rosal said the rebels would intensify offensives ahead of May 10 elections to help bring down the Arroyo administration.

Batangas police director Superintendent Rodolfo Magtibay said at least 20 NPA guerrillas attacked Air Force soldiers and militiamen guarding the 600-megawatt Napocor power plant at around 2 a.m.

Magtibay said the rebels were on board an Isuzu six-wheeler truck and swooped down on the Air Force detachment near the plant’s gate, leaving Airman Ryan Cabalidad dead in the one-hour gunbattle.

Two responding Air Force personnel were also killed while another soldier was wounded after they were ambushed by another group of NPA rebels in Barangay San Rafael, some 300 meters from the power plant.

The two other fatalities were identified as Sgts. Edgardo Micua and Erwin Rigos, while wounded Airman 2nd Class Reynaldo Carandang was brought to the V. Luna Hospital in Quezon City for treatment.

Magtibay also identified the wounded militiamen as Martin Atienza, Valentin Capacia and Pablo Panaligan.

The rebels also ambushed another group of soldiers from the Army’s 740th Combat Group headquarters in nearby Nasugbu town, killing T/Sgt. Carlito Paraiso. A still unidentified rebel was also killed in the gunbattle.

The attackers were later repulsed by responding government troops who managed to kill two more rebels, Magtibay said.

The attackers left the bodies of two slain comrades who were identified only as Ka Jano and Ka Liway of the Melito Glor Command operating in Southern Luzon under Rosal.

The rebels also left behind the Isuzu truck in Barangay Kahil with blood trails and abandoned backpacks which indicated many guerrillas could have been killed or wounded, Magtibay said.

Air Force spokesman Maj. Restituto Padilla said about 10 soldiers and 30 militiamen were manning the detachment when the rebels attacked.

The rebels initially fired anti-tank rockets at the detachment, triggering the one-hour gunfight.

Armed Forces spokesman Lt. Col. Daniel Lucero said the NPA intended to knock out the power plant to cause a widespread blackout in the whole of Luzon, including Metro Manila.

"They intended to paralyze the livelihood of the people," Lucero said.

Calabarzon police director Chief Superintendent Reynaldo Varilla said they are investigating reports that a civilian, identified as Delia Lacdao, were among those killed in the attack.

Varilla said the police regional force has been placed under heightened alert following reports that the NPA attackers fled to Mindoro.

On the other hand, Rosal told dzRH radio the attack was "in response to the directive of the party to intensify tactical offensives" and to punish the soldiers based in the area for human rights violations, which he did not specify.

"The attack was directed at the detachment. In truth they did not do anything to (the facility)," he said.

Rosal also said the Calaca power plant has been blamed by residents for pollution in the area. "The residents have been complaining of the smoke emanating from the coal-fired power plant in the area," Rosal said in Filipino.

Yesterday’s attack at the Calaca power plant was the first major offensive by the NPA since a Christmas season ceasefire, separately called by both the government and the rebels, expired earlier this month.

The NPA rejected an appeal by the government to extend the truce until the May 10 elections.

Rosal had said the resumption of peace talks, which have been suspended since 2001, under the government of Mrs. Arroyo would be "impossible."

He claimed the NPA will only be willing to resume formal peace talks with any of Mrs. Arroyo’s three major rivals in the May elections — movie actor Fernando Poe Jr., former education secretary Raul Roco and Christian evangelist Bro. Eddie Villanueva of the Jesus Is Lord (JIL) movement.

Rosal made the statement even as another NPA spokesman in Mindanao, Jorge Madlos, agreed to reconsider the government’s request to extend the ceasefire and possibly reduce the "campaign taxes" until after the May elections. — With Rene Alviar, Jaime Laude, AFP

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