Thursday, July 7, 2016

(Update) PNP condemns tribal leader’s slay, forms SITG to probe the incident

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 7): (Update) PNP condemns tribal leader’s slay, forms SITG to probe the incident

The Philippine National Police (PNP) has condemned the killing a tribal leader and his companion on Wednesday afternoon in Panabo City and vowed to solve the case.

Regional Director Chief Superintendent Manuel Gaerlan has also ordered the Acting Provincial Director of the Davao del Norte Police Provincial Office Director Sr. Superintendent Ferdinand Sifuentes to create a Special Investigation Task Group to look into the killing and exert maximum effort to solve the case and file appropriate charges against the assailants.

Datu Ruben Labawan, a tribal leader known for his anti-communist stance, was killed while his companion died later in a hospital due to gunshot wounds during an afternoon ambush staged by armed men in Purok Talong, Barangay Gredu in Panabo City, Davao del Norte on Wednesday.

Panabo City Police chief Alvin Saguban reported that six armed men on board three motorcycles staged an ambush killing on the spot the leader of the Ata tribe in Paquibato District while his companion Romeo Escosar, 49, a resident of Purok Mangga in Barangay Gredu was injured but later declared dead on arrival at the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) in Davao City.

Saguban said Labawan came from a meeting called by the National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) for tribal leaders from Davao region at the RJ3 Restaurant in Panabo.

The meeting was organized to discuss a priority project for the lumads called the Slope Agriculture Land Technology (SALT) of the Department of Agriculture, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, NCIP, TESDA and the Municipal Agrarian Reform Office.

Labawan has been actively supporting the Peace and Development Outreach Program or Oplan Bayanihan of the Philippine Army that has been opposed by the New People's Army (NPA) and criticized by the progressive humanitarian advocates because it allegedly brings fear among the indigenous peoples in the hinterlands.

In the initial police investigation, it was learned that Labawan and Escosar, who was driving the motorcycle they were riding, were tailed by the armed men earlier seen waiting near the restaurant.

The ambush took place about 800 meters from the restaurant. Witnesses told investigators that they saw the suspects speeding towards Davao City after the shooting. Labawan died from multiple gunshot wounds in the body.

Saguban said they found five empty shells of caliber .45 pistol from the crime scene and two deformed slugs of unknown caliber.

Saguban said they still have not identified the suspects behind the ambush. Asked if those responsible are members of the NPA, Saguban said they just label them as lawless armed groups.

It was learned that Wednesday’s incident was the second attempt on Labawan’s life.

Police authorities assured the public that they will do their best to prevent further similar incidents and to secure peace and order in the community at all times.

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