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MANILA, Philippines - It may seem like a footnote in the avalanche of statistics about the four-decade communist insurgency in the country, but for 29 Army soldiers, Private First Class Edel Llamas, who died saving them, will always be more than just a name.
Llamas, a member of the 83rdInfantry Battalion, on Monday sacrificed himself in order to save the soldiers who were ambushed by more than 20 members of the New People’s Army (NPA) in Balatohan, San Miguel, Catanduanes.
The brave Army private did this by providing cover from his submachinegun, despite being pinned down by enemy fire, in order to allow his fellow soldiers to leave their truck safely as the ambushers did their worst.
“He selflessly sacrificed to save 29 lives,” Maj. Angelo Guzman, spokesman of the 9th Infantry Division, said in a phone interview.
He said Llamas’s group was ambushed at around 1:30 p.m. while on board a military truck on their way home to camp. They had gone on a security patrol on information that the NPA was planning to bomb the hydroelectric power plant located in Barangay Solong.
The NPA, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), usually conducts a series of tactical attacks against government forces and private and government facilities in the run-up to its anniversary. It marks its 43rd founding anniversary on March 29.
According to Guzman, Llamas’s group was pinned down at the ambush site where the rebels had a vantage point.
“He was not wounded yet when he repeatedly shouted to his fellow soldiers to find a way to get out from killing zone. Ang paulit-ulit na isinisigaw niya ay ‘Baba na, baba na, ako na bahala ditto [he kept shouting, get down, get down; I’ll handle this]’ as he fired his K3 submachine gun against the ambushers,” Guzman said.
He said the military truck was crippled by at least two landmines that were detonated by rebels, who also simultaneously fired upon it.
“PFC Llamas provided suppressive fire against the rebels with his K3 sub-machinegun despite under heavy enemy fires. This brave act allowed the rest of the platoon to unload the truck then engage the NPA rebels in firefight before the rebels retreated,” Lt. Col. Rod Batang, commanding officer of the 83rd ID, said in a statement.
While scrambling for cover, PFC Elisio Gran was hit in his right leg and is recuperating at the Eastern Bicol Medical Center in Virac, Catanduanes.
Llamas, however, was not as lucky.
“He is a hero. He died saving his platoon, He died serving his country,” said Maj. Gen. Josue Gaverza, commander of the 9th ID, referring to Llamas.