MANILA - A military official on Tuesday told members of the New People's Army (NPA) rebel group to surrender or end up dead like 18 of their comrades who were killed in a firefight with the military in Dolores, Eastern Samar.
Maj. Gen. Pio Diñoso, commander of the Army's 8th Infantry Division based in Samar, said the latest encounter proves that if the rebels do not surrender, they may just end up dead.
"On the part of the NPA, they just saw that if they won't return to the government fold, if they won't choose the path of peace, this is what's going to happen to them," he said in an online press briefing.
He also said that the government continues to offer the rebels to return to the fold of the government, but they have no choice but to fight back if the rebels choose violence instead.
Monday's encounter initially killed 16 NPA rebels, but the military recovered two more bodies on Tuesday.
Authorities also seized 29 high-powered firearms from the rebels.
The military said the enemy casualty count is the highest in a single encounter during the Duterte administration.
In November 2017, 14 NPA rebels died in an encounter in Nasugbu, Batangas.
Meanwhile, an NPA intelligence officer in Mindanao was killed in a law enforcement operation in Polomolok town in South Cotabato on Monday.
Brig. Gen. Roy Galido, commander of the Army's 601st Brigade in Sultan Kudarat, identified the fatality as John Nebris Omega, who carried the aliases Parts, Bords, Albay, and Pards, and was allegedly the intelligence officer of the NPA's Komisyon Mindanao.
According to Galido, government forces went to Omega's house in Barangay Cannery Site to serve an arrest warrant for kidnapping, serious illegal detention, and robbery.
Omega, however, fired shots at the authorities, leading to a firefight.
According to the military, Omega was involved in the abduction of Mayor Henry Dano of Lingig town in Surigao del Sur and his two soldier-escorts in August 2011. Dano and his escorts were released by the rebels two months later.