LABO, Camarines Norte - Five police officers were killed while two were wounded in a clash with suspected rebel forces in Labo town Friday night.
The Camarines Norte police office said the gunfight started while the group of Police Lt. Louie James Amoy was patrolling 50 meters away from their camp in Barangay Dumagmang in the town.
The clash lasted for three hours, where five police officers, all members of the 1st platoon of the Camarines Norte Provincial Mobile Force Company (1st PMFC), died on the spot.
The suspected rebels, whose numbers are unknown, immediately fled the scene and headed towards the forests of Mt. Labo.
PNP chief OIC Guillermo Eleazar condemned the attack and ordered immediate pursuit operations to hunt down the attackers.
"To condemn this attack is not enough to express the anger of the men and women of the PNP, especially that the circumstances of their deployment is to secure a project that would benefit the people of Quezon and the Bicol region from the extortion activity of the local Communist Terrorist Group," said Eleazar in a statement.
"In consultation with our chief PNP, Police General Debold M Sinas and in coordination with the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), LtGen Cirilito Sobejana, I am ordering the Regional Directors of PRO4A, Police Brigadier General Felipe R Natividad and PRO5, PBGen Bartolome R Bustamante, to mobilize their forces in order to hit back not only on those responsible but also on the NPA operating in their respective Areas of Responsibility (AOR)."
Bustamante also condemned the incident, saying the officers were in the area to help secure a road being built to connect Camarines Norte with Quezon Province.
Rebels were suspected to have asked for revolutionary taxes from small-scale miners in Dumangmang, a mining village.
Eleazar said the attack would not have been possible without the aid of their supporters.
"So I am also ordering the RD, PRO5 to conduct a thorough investigation to identify those who may have aided these NPAs in the conduct of their ambush and to bring them to court," said the PNP chief.
"To the families of our heroes, I feel your pain and anger over this incident and the most that we could do is to seek justice for them. Be rest assured that we will always be there to provide all the assistance that you deserve."
The rebel side has yet to give word on alleged involvement in the gunfight.
Philippine state forces and rebels figure in periodic clashes as peace negotiations between government and the communist movement have not prospered.
In a recent speech, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered state troops to shoot on sight armed rebels and "ignore human rights."
A few days later, several activists tagged in the communist movement were killed in police raids in Calabarzon.
— Report from Jonathan Magistrado