Three suspected New People’s Army (NPA) members and two soldiers were killed in clashes in North Cotabato and Davao City as the rebel group celebrated its 43rd anniversary, military officials said.

Brigadier Gen. Manuel Ochotorena, assistant commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said Pfc. Jaylord Albania died in the hospital after being injured in a clash with rebels in Magpet, North Cotabato, on Thursday.

Albania and his fellow members of the 57th Infantry Battalion clashed with about 60 rebels led by alyas Totoy Dako, of the NPA’s Front Committee 53 around 11:45 a.m. in Sitio Bantaan, Brgy. Bagumbayan.

Colonel Leopoldo Galon, Armed Forces Eastern Mindanao Command spokesman, said three rebels also died in the clash but their bodies have yet to be recovered.

The military is still coordinating with local officials of Magpet for the retrieval and transport of the three slain rebels, Galon said.

In Davao City, Pfc. Eriel Garalde died as three rebels sniped a patrol base of the 72nd Infantry Battalion in Sitio Guinobatan, Brgy. Paradise Embac, around 6:05 a.m.

Six hours later, two Army personnel and a policeman were injured when their team encountered 15 rebels in Sitio Sinai, Brgy. Tambis, in Barobo, Surigao del Sur.

Colonel Arnulfo Burgos, Armed Forces spokesman, said the number incidents initiated by the NPA during their anniversary rose to three from the two recorded in 2011.

Despite the rise in the number of incidents, he said the military is “more concerned” on the “long-term statistics.”

“This is price of fighting for peace. We like to appeal to our misguided brothers, it’s high time we abandon armed violence,” Burgos said. (John Roson)

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