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Real warriors shed tears for fallen enemies

MULANAY, Quezon –In the bloody battles experienced by Army soldiers all over the archipelago, even warriors have wept a tear for their fallen enemies.

This is what Corporal Rishman Ballasta, 30, experienced after a fierce firefight with at least 15 rebels in Bgy. White Cliff, San Narciso, Quezon on June 30, 2012.

Ballasta was leading 10 other soldiers in a security patrol to locate the heavily-armed rebels who allegedly extorted money from the villagers.

It was around 11:00am when the soldiers spotted the armed men, resting in a hut.

They were approaching the hut when staccatos of gunfire broke the silence, sending them to drop for cover.

He commanded his soldiers to return fire at the communist rebels who came out one by one with their guns blazing, hitting one of his men.

He directed some of his men to secure the flanks and provide cover as the medics treated the wounded soldier.  

Seeing some of the rebels lay lifeless a few meters from his location, he directed his troops to cease firing.
"I asked the remaining rebels to lay down their weapons and raise their hands. They kept on firing at us, wounding another soldier," said Ballasta.
"Lumaban tayo mga kasama, kakaunti lang sila at mga bata pa ang mga iyan (Lets fight them comrades, these are young soldiers and there are only a few of them)," came the orders from the NPA commander.
More shots were fired at the soldiers, bullets plowing their positions , wounding one of them.
Left with no choice, Ballasta and his men returned fire as they gradually approached the enemy positions.
Sensing that the gun firing from the rebels faded away after almost an hour of intense exchange of gunfires, he commanded the team to clear the encounter site.
By that time, he realized that they killed 11 of the rebels, some of whom were obviously 'child warriors', one of whom was a female rebel.

Real warriors also cry
While gathering all the dead rebels, tears flowed in the eyes of his soldiers, seeing innocent-looking young boys among the bloody corpses lying on the ground, still carrying their bandoleers and rifles.

Among the dead were identified through their ID cards including a young female combatant, Maricel Benegas, 17, and Benjo Endonilla, 17.
“I thought of the families they have left behind. The parents and siblings of those poor souls who were duped by the communists came to  mind ,” Ballasta said, tears welling in his eyes.
 He said that he did not really want to wipe out the whole armed group.

"Amidst the hail of bullets, I negotiated for their surrender. I was frustrated that they responded with flying bullets," he said.

 Ballasta said that shedding tears for the rebels is not a sign of weakness.
"I  felt the pain suffered by the grieving relatives for the death of their loved ones as the news about the incident unfold. I also cried in anger because the communists deceived the young boys into believing that the problems in our society can be resolved by perpetrating atrocities against government forces," he explained.
He said that he is proud even if it would be known to the whole world that the soldiers' eyes have filled with tears while fighting fellow Filipinos.

"We are not happy shooting our misguided kababayans (countrymen) during clashes. We will always try our best to convince them to peacefully surrender and cooperate with the government in solving our problems," he concluded.

Deceitful means

While the soldiers arranged the funeral of the dead rebels at St. Peter Funeral Homes in San Narciso town, representatives of KARAPATAN-Quezon persuaded the families to let them bring the dead rebels to Manila "so they can be given decent burial and their death be honored".

The group explained that dead rebels were  'innocent civilians' killed by the soldiers and that the group will help so that justice must be served.

Lt Melchor Zarandona, the CMO officer of the 74th IB had the chance to talk with the grieving relatives.

"The family members of the dead child warriors declined the offer that the dead be honored in Manila. The relatives were frustated that their children were recruited as NPA rebels and not as ordinary workers according to their (children) claims ," said Zarandona.  

Maria Liza Guevarra, 45, the aunt of one of the slain rebel named Jerome Guevara, 24, could not hide her anger for the death of her nephew. 

“I despise the NPA rebels. Why do they have to involve innocent people in whatever 'cause' they are fighting for?”

Hero soldiers

To recognize the laudable accomplishments of the  74th IB led by Lt Col Dennis Perez, Army chief Lt Gen Emmanuel Bautista took time to visit the soldiers in their field headquarters  here on July 12, 2012.

He lauded the gallantry and compassion that the soldiers have shown during the encounter and conferred recognition medals to the brave soldiers.
He took notice of the fact that the 74IB troops also spared the lives of two child combatants who were captured in an encounter with a small band of rebels in March 2012.

“These men and all others like them are the pride and honor of our country. They shrug-off any danger just to protect the people and keep the peace in the land,” said Bautista.
Bautista has also called on the soldiers to convince the communist rebels to go back to the folds of the law.

“We must continuously encourage the remaining armed rebels  in Quezon to peacefully surrender and cooperate with the government. We can only move forward as a nation if we help each other solve our problems,” he said.
 
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