From the Philippine Star posted to ABS-CBN (Apr 24): NPA commander tagged in Cagayan mayor's slay
A New People's Army (NPA) commander has been tagged as one of the gunmen of Mayor Carlito Pentecostes Jr. of Gonzaga, Cagayan, bolstering police suspicion that communist rebels were behind the killing.
NPA leader David Soriano, alias Ka Colly, was identified through a footage of the closed-circuit television (CCTV) camera installed at the Gonzaga town hall grounds where Pentecostes was gunned down last Monday, according to the regional police.
Chief Superintendent Miguel Laurel, Cagayan Valley police director, said Soriano, second in command of the NPA’s Northern Front Committee, was caught by the CCTV camera as one of the armed men in camouflage who gunned down the mayor.
Earlier reports said Pentecostes, 60, was shot by two of eight Armalite-wielding men who went near him while he was presiding over last Monday’s flag-raising ceremony.
Pentecostes, according to the reports, even greeted the armed men as they emerged from a van in front of the municipal hall, thinking they were military personnel making a courtesy call on him.
Laurel told The STAR that the hard drive of the CCTV camera was brought to Manila for decoding.
Soriano’s NPA unit reportedly operates in the Cagayan towns of Baggao, Gattaran, Amulung, Alcala, Sto. Niño, Rizal, Lasam, Allacapan, Gonzaga, Sta. Teresita, Aparri, Claveria, Ballesteros, Abulug, Pamplona, and Sanchez Mira, as well as in Calanasan, Flora, Pudtol and Sta. Marcela towns in Apayao province.
Soriano’s eight-man group was among at least 30 armed men who stormed the municipal hall and its vicinity during the assault.
A joint Army-police team is now pursuing the armed men in the Sierra Madre mountain ranges.
The armed men’s four getaway vehicles, included a police vehicle, were recovered in the remote Gonzaga village of Barangay Iska a few hours after the raid. Reports said the vehicles were totally burned.
Despite the police claim that NPA guerrillas were behind Pentecostes’ killing, the mayor’s family insisted that politics had something to do with it.
“This is about politics. The armed men are mercenaries of politicians. We don’t believe that it was the NPA who killed our brother. The way we see it his killing was related to politics,” said Pentecostes’ elder brother Edward.
He also belied reports that his brother’s killing had something to do with his support for the provincial government-sanctioned black sand mining in Gonzaga town.
“Those behind this condemnable act are just riding on the issue of mining. Besides, mining activities in Gonzaga have been stopped. If it’s about mining, they should have him killed during his first term,” he said.
Despite his being pro-mining, Pentecostes won overwhelmingly in his second mayoral bid in last year’s midterm elections against Esperlita Garcia, a known anti-mining activist.
Garcia, a distant relative of the slain mayor, is the president of the Gonzaga Alliance for Environmental Protection and Preservation.
Lt. Gen. Gregorio Catapang, chief of the Armed Forces’ Northern Luzon Command, also expressed doubts that the NPA was behind the killing. He was in Gonzaga the other day to oversee the pursuit operation against the armed group.
Catapang said last Monday’s attack was not the usual approach of communist rebels.
He said he was also surprised that a big number of armed men staged the assault, although Gonzaga, besides being generally peaceful, has already been classified as insurgency-free.
Meanwhile, Gonzaga Vice Mayor Rene Salvanera, Pentecostes’ political party mate, officially assumed the mayoral post the other day. He took his oath of office before Cagayan Regional Trial Court Judge Neljoe Cortes.
Participants to the forum were barangay officials from the city’s 45 barangays, members of the city council, department heads, NGO representatives, Christian religious leaders, the City Police and members of the Philippine Army as well as members of local media. Speakers were Professor Moy Edding, Political Science Instructor of the Western Mindanao State University WMSU), Zamboanga City and BTC Commissioner Pedrito Eisma, but the latter failed to show up due to previous commitment in Manila.
During the opening program, Mayor Cherrylyn Santos-Akbar officially declared that she personally decides for NO for the Bangsamoro new political entity considering that the city populace had already spoken for exclusion in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) during the 2001 expanded ARMM plebiscite. She explained that although under the Annex on power sharing it provides for the non-diminutions of powers and authority already enjoyed by the local government units but she is more apprehensive on the future Bangsamoro Local Government Code on the terms, “UNLESS OTHERWISE, MODIFIED, ALTERED AND AMENDED if members of the Bangsamoro Assembly found it necessary to improve its services.
Mayor Santos-Akbar further feared that the moment Isabela City would be under the Bangsamoro Government, the faith of the Internal Revenue Allocation (IRA) for the LGUs may already be put into uncertainty.
On his part, Professor Edding questioned the term Bangsamoro in the agreement because it may cause for a constitutional infirmity considering that in the constitution it does not provides so. He further explained that the 1987 constitution provides that only the term Muslim Mindanao Autonomous Government was clearly mentioned and stipulated and not Bangsamoro Autonomous Government as provided in the CAB signed last March 27, 2014.
Professor Edding added that the envisioned ministerial form of government for the Bangsamoro is also another legal question that may be raised the moment the basic law shall have been enacted by the House of Representatives and the Senate later this year.
But Mr. Allan Pisingan, head of a Civil Society Organization in Basilan and Renald Bucoy, President of the Association of Barangay Chairmen (ABC) reacted on Professor Edding’s predicament emphasizing that the proper forum which can determine the constitutionality of the issue is the Supreme Court. Our tasked at this time is to let the people understand the provisions of the Bangsamoro Agreement so that during the ratification of the BBL, qualified voters may freely decide whether to vote for yes or no, the ABC President Bucoy added.
Mr. Pisingan, likewise appealed to the participants to give peace a chance to work for the betterment of everybody in the Bangsamoro area. He reminded that in war the victims are not only the two warring parties referring to government forces and MILF combatants, but also innocent civilians who become collateral damage with their properties destroyed during conflict.
In another development, Isabela City Bishop Martin Jumoad suggested that position paper protesting the inclusion of Isabela City to the proposed Bangsamoro Government must be made. While Professor Maximo Eisma in his remarks said that the “Bangsamoro means the destruction of the church”.