MANILA (UPDATE) — The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) has accused state forces of "staging" an armed encounter supposedly to justify the slay of New People's Army (NPA) leader Jorge "Ka Oris" Madlos, and said that the latter was actually ambushed while in transit to seek medical assistance.
In a statement Sunday, CPP chief information officer Marco Valbuena said Madlos, an NPA spokesperson, and his companion Eighfel Dela Peña were unarmed and ambushed in Impasug-ong, Bukidnon on Saturday while riding a motorcycle on their way to get medical treatment.
"Ka Oris and Dela Peña were both unarmed when ambushed... They were not in a position to give battle or fight back and were murdered in cold-blood," Valbuena said in a statement.
The Philippine Army reported that Madlos and Dela Peña were killed in a firefight. Brig. Gen. Ferdinand Barandon, commander of the 403rd Brigade, said the gun battle with about 30 communist fighters lasted for 30 minutes.
In a statement, Maj. Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr., commander of the 4th Infantry Division, said Madlos was the most wanted NPA commander in the country with multiple criminal cases, such as robbery with double homicide and damage to properties.
"His (Madlos) death will deter the activities and plans by the NPA for he can no longer direct the communist terrorists' violent action against our people," Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Col. Ramon Zagala said in a statement.
Local military commanders estimate the NPA strength in the eastern part of Mindanao, covering Regions 10, 11, 12, and 13, to be around 1,000.
The CPP denied there was a firefight between the two camps as it accused government forces of faking the battle scene.
"To conceal their crime of murdering unarmed revolutionaries and create a false picture of an armed encounter, the 4th ID staged aerial strikes four hours later in the vicinity of Barangay Dumalaguing, Impasug-ong, Bukidnon," the CPP said.
It calls on independent pathologists to perform autopsy on the bodies of the victims to determine the actual circumstances of their killing.
Brawner said the AFP "respects international humanitarian law" and is "not in the business of ambushing unarmed combatants, especially if they are riding on a motorcycle."
"Sila ang nag-a-ambush ng mga nakasakay sa bisikleta. Si Kieth Absalon was riding with his uncle on a bicycle, at in-ambush sila ng NPA using landmines," the military officer said in a news conference in Cagayan de Oro City on Monday.
(The NPAs are the ones who ambush people on bike. Kieth Absalon was riding a bike, with his uncle, when they were ambushed by the NPA using landmines.)
He said it is a fact that a legitimate encounter happened, and that Madlos died in the said cash.
Zagala also belied the CPP's claim that Madlos was unarmed given his stature within the NPA leadership.
"Being at the top leadership of the NPA, he is protected 24/7 by more or less 40 NPAs. It is unlikely he will move without these armed elements as claimed by the NPA," Zagala said.
The armed conflict between the communist fighters and the Philippine government has been on going for over five decades now, considered one of the longest armed insurgencies in the world.
The Duterte government has terminated all peace negotiations with the communist fighters and instead created a task force in a bid to quash the insurgency.