LEGAZPI CITY, February 18, 2004 (STAR) By Celso Amo And Christina Mendez - The Philippine National Police (PNP) condemned yesterday the New Peopleís Army (NPA) ambush which left eight Masbate policemen dead and four others wounded last Monday.

"We condemn in the strongest possible terms this show of insincerity of the CPP-NPA toward the governmentís peace initiatives," said Senior Superintendent Joel Goltiao, PNP spokesman.

The attack came two days after government and National Democratic Front (NDF) negotiators signed an agreement in Oslo, Norway furthering the peace process.

Goltiao said the Masbate ambush shows that communist leaders seem to have "no direct control" over their guerrillas.

Chief Superintendent Jaime Lasar, Bicol police director, said some 60 insurgents detonated a landmine while a 12-man team of the Provincial Police Mobile Group, led by Senior Inspector Santiago Tacorda Jr., was passing through Barangay Bangad, about 30 kilometers from the town proper of Milagros, Masbate.

The lawmen, joined by elements of the 5th Scout Ranger Company, were on their way back to their camp in Mandaon town, some 76 kilometers southeast of Masbate City, when they were waylaid.

Killed on the spot were Tacorda, SPO2 Rodrigo Donato Almoguera Jr., SPO1 Antonio Capili, PO3s Victor Natural, Lito Gomez, Moises Azares and Bernardino Alegre, and PO2 Erich Oliver Sinogba.

Those wounded were identified as SPO1 Emilio Carpio, PO3 Armando Habibon, and SPO1s Gerardo Banzuela and Wilfredo Ajero.

The NPA attackers failed to seize any firearms as the wounded policemen managed to return fire, reportedly killing one rebel, while Scout Rangers rushed to the scene.

The rebels fled carrying their wounded comrades toward Barangays Buracay and Agman after the two-and-a-half-hour firefight.

The joint police-Scout Ranger team had responded to a report that a barangay official was slain by rebels in Barangay Banagad.

Last Feb. 3, an Air Force man was killed and 10 others were wounded when 20 NPA guerrillas ambushed them in Barangay del Carmen in Uson, Masbate.

"Apparently, the NPA is doing all these (attacks) to project an image of strength and presence to pursue its extortion activities in the guise of campaign taxation," said PNP chief Herómogenes Ebdane Jr.

Ebdane went yesterday to Mindoro Oriental where a mayoral candidate, Vice Mayor Juvy Magsino of Naujan town, and human rights activist Leima Fortu were gunned down last Friday.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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