Negros island killings have 'very low' chance of spilling over to Zamboanga del Norte – army

DAPITAN CITY, Philippines – The top Army officer here said he received a report that the killings in the two provinces of Negros may spill over to Zamboanga del Norte as government forces throw pressure against the New People’s Army (NPA) in Negros island, but noted the chances of violence spilling over as "very low."

In an interview on Saturday, August 3, Lt. Colonel Rufino de Leon, commander of the 97th Infantry Battalion covering Zamboanga del Norte and incoming commander of the 5th Cadre Battalion based in Piñan town in this province, said it was still possible for the NPA here to create diversionary tactics like “sparrow attacks” against the military, police, Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Units (CAFGU) and public officials to ease military pressure against their “comrades” in Negros island.

“We received that report just last August 2, but our intelligence said the chances are very low,” De Leon explained. 

He added their intelligence has yet to identify the presence of NPA Sparrow units – small groups of highly mobile NPA fighters involved in hit and run tactics – in Zamboanga del Norte, “at kung meron man, we are ready for them (and if there are any, we are ready for them)." 

De Leon said there are 3 main NPA groups in Zamboanga del Norte: the 2nd Big Beautiful Country, 2nd Feliciano Alpha and 2nd Feliciano Bravo with combined 100 armed fighters.

NPA fighters operate in boundaries for them to go to adjacent provinces if pursued by military. “Paikot-ikot lang yan (they rotate) between Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga Sibugay and Misamis Occidental,” De Leon said.

Asked regarding the chances of NPA members in Negros island taking boats and escaping to Zamboanga del Norte, De Leon said,“They have to pass through Selinog or Aliguay islands, and if they do that, we have troops based in those islands waiting.”

Last August 1, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte said that he may declare Martial Law in Negros island because of the rampant killings. (READ: Monitoring Negros: What rulings say about NPA and martial law)

He also urged that fire officers be armed to help the police and military maintain law and order in the country.

"Do not limit yourself diyan – kulang tayo ng tao (Don't limit yourself there – we lack manpower). I will explain in the coming days, but I'm about to do something drastic. It will not sit well with everybody, maybe including you, but it is needed," Duterte said.

From July 18 to 27 reports said at least 20 persons were killed in separate attacks by unidentified suspects in Negros Oriental.

Although the mode of killings was attributed to the NPA, authorities said they are still investigating, and could not as of the moment say the suspects were insurgents. – Rappler.com