THE Philippine Army's 10th Infantry Division hinted that the New People's Army (NPA) could be behind the killing of a barangay council and militant leader in Baganga town in Davao Oriental on Monday.
Cristina Morales Jose, one of the leaders of Barug Katawhan, a group composed of survivors of the Typhoon Pablo, was shot dead around 6 p.m. Monday while on her way home from a council session in Barangay Binondo.
The militants, in their earlier protest in Davao City, believed that Jose's death manifested the real score of Oplan Bayanihan of President Benigno Aquino III, adding that despite the "No Red Tagging" policy, soldiers continue to defy this.
The 10th Infantry Division downplayed the accusations of the militants, especially on the red tagging.
Speaking at the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)-Philippine National Police (PNP) press conference in Task Force Davao (TFD) headquarters, Lieutenant Colonel Lyndon Paniza, 10th Infantry Division spokesperson, said as far as their division is concerned, their troops, particularly the 67th Infantry Battalion, are close with the victim due to their aim to assist the communities with their various outreach program activities.
"Yes, we know that she is also a member of the Bayan aside from being a barangay councilor. But we never had a problem with her. Ni minsan wala an nag-away ang 67th IB ug si kagawad. That's why natingala mi na pagbuto sa balita, sundalo dayon gipasanginlan nila," Paniza said.
Paniza said based on information they gathered, Jose was shot dead at Poblacion in Baganga and not in Barangay Binondo.
He said before the victim went outside from council session, there were already three unidentified men posted outside the municipal hall.
"Matud pa gani sa mga nagbantay didto, pagsakay ni kagawad ug tricycle, misunod tong tulo ka mga lalaki na nagtambay sa gawas. Wala daw panumbalingi sa mga tagadidto kay basin kaila ra sa maong kagawad tong mga lalaki. La mi nagdahom mga 5:30 p.m. na balita nga patay na siya," Paniza said.
He said the communist group might have something to do with Jose’s death because of the latter's close relationship with the government troops, adding the victim has only been sacrificed for the propaganda of the NPA.
Citing the explosion incident in Barangay Fatima of Paquibato Ditrict in Davao City last year, Paniza said that after the incident, the militants, especially the Karapatan, immediately issued the report that government troops were behind the incident.
As to accusations and complaints of the militants on red tagging, Paniza said the division never tagged them as members or supporters of the communist group and that they are just making stories.
"We never accused them as members of the NPA. But they are the ones' tagging themselves in terms of their actions. If they are not members or supporters of the communist, then let the people know," Paniza said, even as he challenged the militants to denounce the NPAs.
Paniza said the 10th Infantry Division is open for any investigation on the death of the barangay council, adding they would even invite investigating bodies on the matter, as they want also justice for Jose.