CAMP CAPINPIN, Tanay, Rizal — The Secretary of Southern Tagalog Regional Party Committee’s Sub-Regional Military Area 4A was killed after a firefight erupted when combined AFP and PNP forces served warrants of arrest for murder and frustrated murder in Antipolo City at around 2 a.m. Thursday.

Armando Lazarte alias Pat Romano, concurrently an Executive Committee member of STRPC, was with two other terrorists inside a safehouse in Brgy Cupang’s Sierra Vista Subdivision when the incident happened.

Lt Col Christopher Diaz, Commander of the 80th Infantry Battalion which operates in Rizal Province, said that the terrorists opened fire at the arresting officers which triggered the shootout.

“Alias Pat Romano is a notorious NPA Commander who has led the burning of equipment at the Kaliwa Dam project in Infanta, Quezon early this year and the series of ambush utilizing land mines against the PNP in Baras and Antipolo City last 2018.”

Col Alex Rillera, Commander of the 202nd Brigade which has operational jurisdiction over the area, said that after the initial exchange of fires, “security forces applied first aid to the wounded terrorists who were then brought to Amang Rodriguez Hospital where they were declared Dead on Arrival by the attending physician.”

Government troops recovered one M16 rifle, one 9mm pistol, one cal .45 pistol, two hand grenades, laptops, cellphones and voluminous enemy documents which are now being processed by Rizal Provincial Police Office’s SOCO.

According to Major General Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos Jr, Commander of the Philippine Army’s 2nd Infantry (Jungle Fighter) Division, “the series of neutralization of hard core cadres in Southern Tagalog is a manifestation of the lingering demoralization among the enemy’s ranks as well as the reality that the NPAs no longer enjoy support from what used to be a solid mass base in the region.”

He said that the security forces were notified by informants from within the terrorist group regarding the whereabouts of alias Pat Romano, an information that was confirmed by some of the locals in the area.

He added that the death of Armando Lazarte “is a decisive blow to the communist terrorists for it will result to leadership vacuum, thus, further pushing them on the brink of collapse thereby fast-tracking our efforts to defeat insurgency and liberate our people from the clutches of terrorism in this part of the country.”

According to the military, they were able to dismantle the NPA unit operating in Batangas and Cavite after the 2018 campaign and are now on track to defeat the “NPA terrorists operating in Rizal, Laguna and Quezon provinces.”

Lt Gen Gilbert Gapay, Commander of the Southern Luzon Command, lauded the government troops for “being steadfast in defeating the NPA terrorists in Southern Tagalog which will pave the way for peace, prosperity and development in the immediate south of the national government’s seat of power.”

He added that “although we do not rejoice in the death of a fellow Filipino, this incident should serve as a warning to the enemies of the state that we are firm in our resolve to put an end to this insurgency which has been hampering our country’s growth and potentials.”

He ended his statement by reiterating his call to the few remaining terrorists to put down their arms, return to the folds of law and avail reintegration grants while they can “because government forces are slowly but surely closing in to take them down and bring them before the courts of law and make them answer for the terroristic actions that they have been committing against our country and people.”

Alias Pat Romano was the second high-ranking leader from Southern Tagalog to be neutralized in nine days following the arrest of Jaime Padilla, a central committee member, in the posh Cardinal Santos Hospital in San Juan last Nov 26.