Sangil: The fall of Commander Sumulong

ONLY months after President Ferdinand Marcos started in his second term after defeating Sergio Osmeña Jr. of Cebu, the Philippine Constabulary (PC) zone command started their punitive actions against the dissident group identified with Faustino Del Mundo alias Commander Sumulong. A para-military group called as ‘Monkees’ going berserk started making ambuscades.

The first casualty was Lt. Ben Salas of the Angeles City Police Department. He was waylaid along The MacArthur Highway in Telebastagan, San Fernando on his way home from the provincial Capitol. Next was Mabalacat police chief Lt. Ben Cato who was ambushed and killed along with three other companions along MacArthur Highway in Barangay Mabiga. The two police officers were believed to be supporters of Sumulong.

Despite the ‘Beatles’, the HMB liquidation squad going against the unnamed members of the Monkees, the former was at the losing end, its ranks was decimated by the methodical rub-out. There were series of raids and ambuscades in Porac and Angeles City staged by the Monkees. Suspected HMB supporters topped the list of casualties. The nocturnal knockings on the doors of known HMB sympathizers were threatened. There were first warnings. A second warning led usually to dire consequences.

The HMB leadership retaliated by ambushing government troopers along with kidnap slaying of ‘traitors’ to their cause. Angeles City police chief Democrito Lumanlan was flown to the United States after an unsuccessful attempt in his residence in a gated subdivision in the city. Many barangay leaders in Central Luzon region were kidnapped, their bodies mutilated. Lesser known individuals were reported missing by kins and never to surface again.

When Constabulary authorities dug an unmarked mass grave in what have been tagged Barangay Cuayan Memorial Park hundreds of skeletal remains were discovered. It was Central Luzon’s first known killing field. Several graves were found in isolated farmlands in several Central Luzon towns, all yielded remains of missing persons believed kidnapped by dissident groups.

Many local politicians were caught in the balance of terror resulting from the creation of the government sponsored death squad called Monkees. Many elected leaders began to shift symphaties, feigned allegiance, or camouflaged their loyalty. Many who previously sought and enjoyed political support began arming themes and declared their own war against Sumulong. Slowly the once reigning dissident-backed administration in Angeles City began to fall.

In September 1970, Commander Sumulong together with two henchmen was captured by elements of Task Force Lawin of the Philippine Constabulary under Captain Vicente Garcia. Sumulong was sentenced to a lengthy jail term, was pardoned and released from prison in the early eighties. He died a disgraced pauper in 1992.

It was a long five years for the might of government forces to destroy Sumulong and the ‘invisible government’ he ruled with iron fists. But even before the effective dismantling of the HMB, the New Peoples Army was being organized in Tarlac province by Bernabe Buscayno alias Commander Dante with the help of intellectual leftist leaders from Metro Manila’s academe with the hope of shaping a national progressive movement. (In the next part, a throwback of the peaceful years of the thirties)
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