NPA file foto

New People’s Army (NPA) rebels.

Communist rebels have claimed they carted off 74 firearms in a raid at a mining firm owned by a town mayor in the southern Philippine province of Davao Oriental a week ago.

Ka Aris Francisco, spokesperson of the NPA’s Comval-North Davao South Agusan Sub-regional Command, said the raid netted the rebels a total of 54 high powered rifles including three M-60 machine guns and 20 other assorted hand guns and sub machine guns.

It was the biggest rebel haul in recent memory.

The NPAs also reportedly seized more than 14,000 rounds of ammunition.

A company guard was killed when he put up a fight in the five-minute rebel raid. Also slain was a government militiaman when a separate rebel unit attacked a nearby military detachment.

The military said the attack on the military detachment was a diversionary plot in addition to three roadblocks to prevent the police and government soldiers from reinforcing the beleaguered mining company owned by Monkayo town mayor Joselito Brillantes Jr.

Ka Aris said the raid was in retaliation to the mayor’s actions, which included, “serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law for building and maintaining a private armed group in pursuit of mining interests.”

The NPA haul was the biggest since April 2007 when guerrillas in the same region raided the armory of Davao Prison and Penal Farm and escaped with 101 firearms, including 50 rifles.

The NPA has been waging a Maoist-inspired protracted guerrilla war since 1969.

From a ragtag army with only 35 vintage rifles, it grew to become a nationwide guerilla army operating in over 72 provinces in the Philippines.

The military however said it has greatly diminished the arms capability of the rebels and has reduced their strength to a little more than 4,000 armed regulars, compared to 20,000 at the height of the Marcos dictatorship.

The Communist Party of the Philippines, the political organization of the NPA, however said it has recovered it armed strength to the level where it was in 1986 when President Ferdinand Marcos was ousted in a popular revolt.