Three alleged rebels died while three soldiers and one member of the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU) were injured in an encounter in the hinterland of Escalante City, Negros Occidental.

Government troops carried out an airstrike against alleged members of the New People’s Army in Sitio Mandulao, Barangay Pinapugasan, Escalante City.

The airstrike took place at around 7 p.m. of February 22, 2024 which lasted reportedly for over 45 minutes. 

According to the military, the airstrike was done after an assessment on the position of the alleged rebels and the war materials recovered reportedly from them. 

“Nasa disadvantage position yung tropa natin. Kasi sa high ground nga yung kalaban. Of course, yun naman din ang request ng troops natin doon sa area para maiwasan nga yung pag-inflict ng additional casualties sa ating sundalo. Ginawa natin yung operation,” Major Mervin Castillo Rosal, Civil Military Operations Officer of the 303rd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army.

School classes were cancelled on February 23, 2024 in all levels in Escalante City and in the adjacent town of Toboso.

Over 400 individuals were evacuated from Barangay San Isidro in Toboso.

In a statement issued by the New People’s Army, it denounced the airstrike and tagged the operation as a “fake encounter.”

The military denied the accusation, saying that operations are conducted based on legitimacy.

“Puro lang sila salita. Tayo sa gobyerno hindi tayo nagco-conduct ng isang activity or ganyan na operations without their legitimacy,” Castillo stressed.

Clearing operations by the military in the area is going on, as of this writing. 


Below is the full text of the statement issued by Ka Cecil Estrella, spokesperson of the New People’s Army:

“Northern Negros Guerrilla Front of the New People's Army (RJPC-NPA) condemns the grossly inhuman bombing and denounces the Philippine Army for using its fake encounter script to again whitewash its crimes. We reiterate: no firefight took place between the two armed groups this morning.

“In their utter display of mercenary arrogance, #DiMasaligan79IB wantonly drops bombs without prejudice to civilians living within the vicinity, in which the explosion can be heard kilometers away from the site. This is utter violation of international humanitarian law and human rights law.

“We may recall that a similar bombing incident took place at Sitio Mansulao, Barangay San Isidro, Toboso, Negros Occidental, portion of the Trangkal Range, on March 20, 2022 where at least five bombs were dropped. Again, no unit of the NPA was within the area during the time.

“The public can also recall the Himamaylan bombing last June 2021 and October 2022 guised as hot pursuit operations against Red fighters when the local NPA unit denied that it was a legitimate encounter, but merely a bombing frenzy of the military.

“Bombings and other fascist measures by the AFP are typical of a reactionary state with Marcos Jr as commander-in-chief who displays utter negligence to his duty to protect the people against skyrocketing prices of commodities, 'libing' wages, among others. 

“So long as US imperialism, backed by big compradors and local landlords, as well as, bureaucrat capitalists, control the nation, fascist state instruments, such as the AFP/PNP, come handy to suppress all those who call for national liberation and genuine democracy.””””””