Communist rebels threw two grenades at army troops helping treat villagers in the central Philippines, killing two soldiers and a civilian who covered a child with his body during the attack, the military said on Sunday.
The child survived with minor wounds, regional military spokesman Maj. Armand Rico said.
The rebels did not immediately comment. They have said previously they will not attack if civilians could get hurt.
The 40-year-old rebellion by Maoist rebels demanding that the Philippines become a communist state is one of Asia’s longest-running insurgencies. The military has expressed confidence that it could end the fighting by the time President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo completes her term next year.
Saturday’s attack by New People’s Army guerrillas in remote Polangi village in Northern Samar province targeted soldiers on a humanitarian mission, Rico said.
Other soldiers returned fire until reinforcements arrived, prompting about 30 rebels to withdraw. Troops were pursuing them, Rico said.
In a statement Sunday, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said rebels have carried out 235 assaults since January of last year, killing at least 120 people accused of being government spies or because they resisted extortion demands or refused to support the rebels.
The statement also said rebels carried out 112 attacks from 2005 to 2008 that destroyed or damaged telecommunication towers of Globe Telecom Inc., a leading cellular phone service provider. The attacks caused much alarm among residents. Globe officials have said the attacks came after they turned down extortion demands.
The communists have less than 5,000 fighters, down from about 25,000 in the 1980s due to battle setbacks and surrenders, the military says.
A peace process broke down in 2004 after the rebels claimed the Philippine government instigated their inclusion on US and European lists of terrorist organizations.