The Manila Times


Marit Stinus-Cabugon

THE Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) has been busy bragging about its successful ambush in insurgency-free Quezon province that killed five members of the Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit (Cafgu) and wounded several others. The NPA carted away five rifles that are “much needed to arm new recruits of the NPA and further strengthen the people’s armed resistance against the campaign of state terrorism,” the CPP explained in a September 2 statement.

Before the CPP was done boasting, however, six NPA rebels were killed in Bilar, Bohol, in clashes with the Philippine Army on September 7. Five M-16s and two AK-47 rifles were recovered by the government troops. The AK-47 has been a “staple” of the NPA in Bohol, figuring in almost every encounter and sighting since the rebels re-emerged in 2017.

The local newspaper Bohol Chronicle raised some doubt as to whether the slain men were really NPA combatants. Why is there no official statement from the CPPNPA? I myself was shocked that so many were killed. The NPA in Bohol has been reported to have only nine armed members left.

Once the identities of the men who were killed were established, however, there could be no doubt that they were NPA. Nevertheless, they obviously didn’t expect to run into government forces who had been alerted by local residents. The rebels, fleeing from the first encounter, reportedly found a blocking force waiting for them. No quarter was given.

All six slain men have been identified by relatives. To observers of the insurgency in Bohol, the names Compoc, Nabas and Lumantas are quite familiar.

Twenty-nine-year-old Jingler Villamor Compoc was the son of Domingo “Kumander Cobra” Compoc. Jingler’s father was already an NPA fighter in Bohol in the 1980s. Domingo hails from Barangay Dagohoy, Bilar, which is why a number of insurgencyrelated events from 2017 to the present have taken place in that corner of Bohol. Relatives are unlikely to refuse a request for support, and the terrain is familiar.

Emoy Estaniola and Okloy Esagre, the oldest among the fatalities, are said to be Domingo’s contemporaries in Bohol’s revolutionary movement.

Bilar was also the scene of the May 25, 2021 encounter that killed Romeo “Ka Marlon” Nabas — commanding officer of the NPA Bohol provincial operational command — and four other rebels. Nabas’ 43-year-old younger brother, Ruben, was killed in the September 7 encounter. Another brother surrendered to authorities last year.

Domingo and Romeo operated in Negros for years but were sent to Bohol in 2017 to breathe new life into the moribund communist movement there. Seven years after the province was declared insurgency-free, suspected rebels in 2017 started carrying out liquidations of soft targets such as military informants. The first military encounter took place on May 15, 2018, in Campagao, Bilar, the same barangay that was the site of the latest encounter.

Nelson Lumantas, another fatality, from Sevilla, is likely the same Nelson Lumantas who, with 13 other rebels, has a standing warrant of arrest for murder issued by a judge in Bohol in 2020. At least six of the 14 have been arrested, while four have been killed. Aside from Lumantas, Romeo Nanta, alias Juanito Magbanua (NPA Negros spokesman), Rogelio Posadas (secretary CPP Negros), and Manuel “Loloy” Tinio were killed in encounters or liquidated.

In the case of Tinio, I’m merely guessing: media reported that a “Manuel Penio” was found shot dead in Ubay on April 14. The police said he was a former rebel. A month later, the CPP Bohol provincial committee, in a statement, claimed that on April 14, Manuel “Ka Dodie” Tinio, a party member and NDF peace consultant, had been murdered by soldiers in the tri-boundary of the towns of Pilar, San Miguel and Ubay. “Penio,” “Loloy” and “Ka Dodie” are likely one and the same person.

Lastly, the lone outsider is Kerlan Fanagel, 47, from Sarangani. Fanagel was until about two years ago very visible, in person and on social media, due to his being the leader and spokesman for numerous national democratic organizations and campaigns for indigenous peoples. Did Fanagel, who was found with an ID not carrying his name, go underground to help the struggling revolutionary movement in Bohol, especially after the death of Romeo Nabas two years ago? It wouldn’t be the first time an above-ground personality was deployed to the countryside to help strengthen the armed struggle. The latter is doomed to fail without the foundation of organizing and education among both NPA fighters and the mass base.

The September 7 encounter likely signals the end of the CPPNPA’s recovery efforts in Bohol that started in 2017. However, NPA leader Domingo Compoc, who is now a senior citizen, remains elusive. Rumored to be sickly, he is nevertheless reported to be moving around freely, hiding in plain sight.

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