One dead, police agent abducted, 5 wounded as presidential security group clashes with New People's Army

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 19) — An encounter between members of President Rodrigo Duterte's security detail and members of the armed wing of the communist party on Wednesday saw one killed, five wounded, and another kidnapped, authorities said.

The Philippine National Police North Cotabato said one member of the local militia known as the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU) died, five members of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) were wounded, while an asset of the police's Criminal Investigation and Detection Group was abducted during the gunfight.

PSG Spokesperson Col. Mike Aquino said 10 PSG personnel in a two-vehicle convoy were on their way to Cagayan de Oro when they were stopped at a checkpoint by 50 armed men in Barangay Gambudes in Arakan, North Cotabato. Arakan sits on the boundaries of Bukidnon and Davao del Norte.

Aquino said they had reason to believe the armed men were members of the New People's Army (NPA).

"Biglang may nagpanggap na taga Task Force Davao na nagco-conduct ng spot checkpoint. Alam natin na ang galawang ito ay galaw ng mga NPA — ang pagpapanggap na mga sundalo," Aquino told CNN Philippines.

[Translation: There were men saying they were with Task Force Davao conducting a spot checkpoint. We know that this move is used by the NPA — pretending they are soldiers.]

"Nu'ng napansin ng pangalawang sasakyan na hindi sila totoong sundalo, pinaputukan na ng tropa natin hanggang sa nagka-engkwentro na," he added.

[Translation: When our second vehicle noticed that they were not real soldiers, our troops opened fire on them until it became an encounter.]

He added that the incident was an "encounter" and not an ambush as earlier reported.

The provincial director of Philippine National Police in North Cotabato Senior Superintendent Emmanuel Peralta told CNN Philippines the CAFGU member who was killed and the police asset who was kidnapped were not part of the PSG convoy.

"They happened to pass the highway (during the encounter)," he said.

Peralta confirmed members of NPA were behind the attack.

"Nadaanan nila (PSG) 'yung grupo ng 'Front Committee 53 NPA' na nagco-conduct ng roadblock at na-intercept itong PSG vehicle at nagkaroon ng engkwentro,"  he said.

Aquino assured residents that the encounter was an isolated case.

Effect on peace talks

The incident comes after President Rodrigo Duterte's order that the government should not resume formal peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines unless its rebels stop attacking government troops in Mindanao.

Related: Duterte: No peace talks with communist rebels if hostilities continue

Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said Duterte has yet to talk about the attack's impact on efforts to revive peace talks.

"Let us wait for the President's advice and directive on the matter," he said in a statement.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza announced on his Facebook page that the backchannel talks are canceled due to the NPA attack.

 

Abella also condemned the act of the NPA on government personnel who were simply doing "normal administrative movement for coordination."

He added the wounded PSG personnel are being treated in a nearby hospital.

In November 2016, a convoy of PSG was also attacked by armed men in Marawi City, Lanao Del Sur.

Seven members of the PSG and two military troops were wounded from the blast of a suspected improvised explosive device. The attackers also opened fire.

Related: 7 PSG members, 2 troops wounded in Marawi City explosion

The advance party was preparing for the scheduled visit of Duterte in the province.