ILIGAN CITY – A former combatant of the New People’s Army (NPA) who surrendered to the government was gunned down by assailants believed to be his former “comrades” in the rebel group on February 29 in the hinterland community of Kalilagan village, this city.

The victim, known as Darwin Saparo, around 30 years old, was killed in his residence around 6 p.m. He belongs to the Higaonon tribe, several of indigenous peoples’ groups in Mindanao.

Lt. Col. Dominggo Dulay, commanding officer of the Army’s 4th Mechanized Infantry Battalion, said the victim originally came from Talakag, Bukidnon and got married in Kalilangan.

“Sitio Lemon has only 15 households and based on witnesses’ account, Saparo visited his mini poultry farm as his means of livelihood after he surrendered to the 51st Infantry Battalion mid last year and received cash assistance from the government. Na tsambahan ng mga armadong rebelde (the rebels got him by chance),” he said.

Dulay said Saparo was supposed to undergo an arc welding skills training with the Technical Education Skills Development Authority in Iligan City scheduled for the second batch in March, “but was gunned down by four suspected New People’s Army terrorists belonging to Platoon Uno, Ace Company, Sub Regional Committee 5 of North Central Mindanao Regional Committee.”

“The Barangay Council of Kalilagan recently declared the Communist Party of the Philippines/NPA as persona non-grata and denounced the presence of terrorists as threat to their peace, security and development initiatives. The residents of Kalilangan strongly condemned the brutal killing of Saparo who died from the multiple gunshot wounds from an AK-47 based on empty shells recovered in the crime scene,” he said, adding that a proper filing of cases will be made after police authorities, the barangay council and military gather the necessary evidence against the suspects.

Dulay also said the Army will not stop in running after the perpetrators responsible in the brutal murder and give due justice to the bereaved family of Saparo.

Alleged NPA extortionist killed

Meanwhile, an alleged high-ranking NPA combatant was killed after an encounter between government troops and a group of communist rebels in Damulog, Bukidnon Friday afternoon.

Lt. Col. Oscar Partuza, commanding officer of 3rd Infantry Battalion (3IB), identified the slain NPA combatant as Eduardo Arnado alias Choi, Deputy Secretary of Guerilla Front 53 (GF 53) and had records of being head extortionist of NPA groups in North Cotabato, northern part of Davao Del Sur, and southern Bukidnon

The encounter ensued shortly after the troops from the 3rd and 19th Infantry Battalions were conducting security operations in the said area after receiving a tip from local residents on the presence of the armed group in a remote area at Sitio Lamparuc, Barangay Sampagar in the said town.

The guerillas scampered to different directions after a 10-minute exchange of fire, leaving the dead body of Arnado.

Army troops also recovered from the encounter site one .45-caliber pistol with magazine and ammunition, spent shells from various high-powered firearms, subversive documents and personal belongings left by the fleeing NPA rebels.

Town mayor Melino Buro later conducted a site assessment to check the condition of the residents nearby while Scene of Crime Operatives personnel are now on the process of conducting legal procedure and operations in the encounter site.