Two soldiers were killed while six others were injured as suspected New People’s Army (NPA) members ambushed government troops escorting precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines in Tabuk City, Kalinga, Thursday morning, police and military officials said.

Senior Supt. Froilan Perez, Kalinga provincial police director, identified the slain soldiers as Cpl. Wilfredo Bacacao and Cpl. Allen Pattaguan, both of the Army’s 17th Infantry Battalion.

Injured were Pfc. Delfin Goyagoy, Ssgt. Rico Delacuesta, Sgt. Wayne Aguinaldo, Tsgt. Herminigildo Vergara, Tsgt. Constante Alupani, and Ssgt. Michael Adducul, also members of the 17th IB.

The incident occurred around 9:30 a.m., while Commission on Elections (Comelec) representatives carrying PCOS machines were convoying along the Kalinga-Bontoc road in Sitio Patiking, Brgy. Bagumbayan, escorted by policemen and Army troopers.

Perez said the group was heading towards Balbalan town when an undetermined number of armed men fired upon the soldiers, who were at the convoy’s tail.

“Pinalampas muna ‘yung mga taga-Comelec, BEIs (board of election inspectors), saka ‘yung PNP escort, pero pagdating dun sa Army inupakan na sila,” Perez said in a phone interview.

Col. Loreto Magundayao, spokesman of the Army’s 5th Infantry Division, said the soldiers and policemen were able to return fire, but it was not known if the rebels also suffered casualties.

“Ang mahalaga naman dun, ‘yung mga taga-Comelec safe sila at saka ‘yung PCOS machine nai-safe nila kaagad at hindi naman nasira or nakuha,” Magundayao said.

Perez said the local police’s “quick reaction force” is now conducting checkpoints to intercept rebels who may be wounded.

“‘Yun na lang ang magagawa namin sa ngayon kasi karamihan ng tropa namin sa PNP naka-deploy na sa mga polling centers kasi bukas na ‘yung final testing ng PCOS machines. Sa Army, may hot pursuit operations sila ngayon,” Perez said. (John Roson)

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