La Castellana now among election ‘areas of concern’

THE municipality of La Castellana in Negros Occidental is now included in the list of “areas of concern” of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), following Sunday’s ambush in Barangay Puso that killed nine persons.

The assessment was made Wednesday during the joint police and military peace and order meeting with the Comelec.

Ten towns and cities in Negros Occidental that were earlier placed under the Category 2 of the election areas of concern because of the presence of armed groups.

"La Castellana is now the 11th LGU (local government unit) considered as area of concern," said Jessie Suarez, provincial Comelec supervisor.

The Comelec, police and the Philippine Army condemned the ambush, which also killed civilians.

Suarez said the incident should not happen again because it would hurt not only the local economy of the town but also of the whole province. It would also hurt the local tourism industry and result to the dislocation of the local residents, he added.

For his part, Colonel Oscar Lactao, 303rd Brigade commander, said they are now 100 percent sure that it was the New People’s Army rebels who were responsible for the attack.

He said the accounts of survivors bolstered their conviction that the rebel group was responsible for the incident.

"How can they (NPA) reconcile that they killed the civilians when they have been saying that they are the protectors of human rights?” Lactao said.

Senior Superintendent Celestino Guara, Negros Occidental Provincial Police director, said that law enforcement agencies, including the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Army, are now joining in conducting investigations for the immediate filing of the case against those responsible for the ambush.

Stephen Paduano, alias Carapali Lualhati, former commander of the Revolutionary Proletarian Army (RPA), also said that with such high-powered firearms used during the ambush, it was definitely the NPA who carried it out.

Such act, he said, contradicts with what they believed in, when he was still with the mainstream rebel group.

Paduano believes that the ambush is the NPA’s way to threaten the politicians to pay for the access fees on what they call as their “areas of jurisdiction.”

He cautioned the politicians not to give in to such extortion activities, and challenged the human rights and militant groups to come out with statements pertaining to the ambush. (TDE)
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