The usual suspects?-A A +A
Thursday, January 31, 2013
IT HAS all the hallmarks of a New People's Army hit in Barangay Puso, La Castellana early this week. The use of automatic assault weapons, coordinated unit movements, and the choice of attack-an ambush on a truck with armed law enforcers. The NPA has virtually patented the art of ambush.
The story has the plot of a whodunit mystery novel. But there was no butler or socialite to blame. The victims: nine, including a police officer, were killed and 12 others, including two police officers, were wounded.
Empty shells of AK-47s, M-16 assault rifles, and .45 caliber pistols, were recovered by La Castellana police force and PNP Scene of the Crime Operatives. While designed in the Soviet Union, the AK-47 is now quite in Negros, with some bank security guards toting this assault weapon.
Except authorities can't get their stories to mesh. From a survivor, "It doesn't seem they were NPA even if they yelled 'Long live the NPA,' because [NPA guerrillas] usually spare civilians," recounted Avelino Ordoñez.
On the other hand, Negros Occidental Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr. called for vigilance to prevent similar ambushes. Marañon enjoined the La Castellana police officers to investigate further to determine the real culprits behind the ambush. However, he refrained from naming names of suspects.
Senior Superintendent Celestino Guara, caretaker of the Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office, doubted that the "local boys" did it since they have kin in the area. If they are not NPA, "then who?" wondered Guara.
Chief Superintendent Agrimero Cruz, regional police director of Western Visayas, was more certain that the NPA did it. The usual suspect. Cruz also said, "This is an opportunity for all human rights advocates to show their support against dastardly acts of the NPA."
Predictably, Colonel Francisco Patrimonio, 302nd Infantry Brigade commander, said that from the narratives of eyewitnesses and survivors and military intelligence reports, the NPA did it. Guara said some of the suspects spoke in Cebuano, while Patrimonio said others spoke in a strange language survivors guessed was "Waray."
On the other hand, Colonel Oscar Lactao, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, wants to dig deeper, remove all elements of doubts that other suspects might have done it. One angle is the involvement of illegal logging as the motive for the ambush. A forest ranger was killed the previous year near the area, with a police officer implicated in his death.
Echoing Lactao's doubt was La Castellana Mayor Alberto Nicor who dared the NPA to issue a statement whether it was behind the ambush. And yes, even Bayan Negros secretary-general Christian Tuayon agreed that the massacre was a violation of the international human rights law on rules of engagement in a war that requires that civilians or non-combatants should be spared. This time, he was unsure who staged the ambush.
Most of those killed and wounded mostly civilians, protected persons under the International Humanitarian Law, justifiable cases that cover State and non-state armed groups.
There are three major non-state armed groups in Negros Occidental. The PNP has pinpointed time and again the presence of private armed groups. And then there's the NPA and the Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade.
If the attack was on an individual involved with agrarian reform issues or officers of the court, my first suspect would be the RPA-ABB. But this time, implicating them for the ambush is a huge stretch. I fail to see what they would gain from the murder of largely farm-worker civilians.
A private armed group? According to my informant, however, the armed men were in their teens or early twenties. Most of PAGs are in their thirties or forties. Wrong demographics.
So by process of elimination, the only armed group left is the NPA. But so far, as Mayor Nicor said, their sound of silence is deafening, not even a vehement denial. Does the NPA's silence imply yes, that they were behind the mass murders? Less talk, less mistake? No talk, no mistake?
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Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on February 01, 2013.