Friday, March 20, 2020

NPA on ‘killing spree’ amid SOMO in Surigao Sur

Posted to the Philippine News Agency (Mar 20, 2020): NPA on ‘killing spree’ amid SOMO in Surigao Sur (By Alexander Lopez)

Google map of San Miguel, Surigao del Sur.

A tribal leader in the Surigao del Sur town of San Miguel lambasted the communist New People’s Army (NPA) for killing two civilians, one whom a tribal chieftain in the area.

Councilor Rico Maca, the Indigenous People Mandatory Representative (IPMR) to the municipal council of San Miguel, told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) Friday (March 20) that the two were killed following the attack of more than 20 NPA rebels on a tribal settlement in Barangay Magroyong, Thursday evening.

Maca said the rebels hacked to death a farmer identified as Zaldy Ibañez, 52, in Purok 7, Sitio Inadan. Ibanez, a Cebuano, is married to a Manobo.

The armed men also killed Datu Bernandino Montenegro Astudillo, 73, the tribal chieftain of Magroyong, whose remains were found Friday morning in the vicinity of Sitio Inadan.

Astudillo's body also bore hacking wounds, Maca said.

Maca added the family members of the victims and several residents in the village identified the suspects as NPA rebels.

“We, the Manobo tribe condemn this barbaric act done by the NPA to our leader, Datu Bernandino. We have proven once again that the NPA did not honor the suspension of military operation (SOMO) which their leaders previously agreed as the nation now is suffering due to the threat of Coronavirus disease (Covid-19),” Maca said.

In a phone interview on Friday, Surigao del Sur Provincial Police Office (SDSPPO) director, Col. James Goforth, confirmed that the NPA was responsible for the killing of Astudillo and Ibañez.

“Based on the investigation conducted by the police, the residents in the area identified the perpetrators as NPA rebels. Family members of the victims also identified some of the rebels who harassed the village,” Goforth said.

He added that the police are now working with the Philippine Army to investigate the incident.

Captain Jonald D. Romorosa, civil-military operations officer of the Army's 36th Infantry Battalion, said Friday that a pursuit operation has been launched in the area against the perpetrators.

Romorosa also condemned the NPA for attacking a tribal settlement and killing defenseless civilians.

Maca said Datu Bernandino was once abducted and later released by the NPA in 2017 and was warned to stop supporting the government.

“Barangay Magroyong was once considered an NPA lair. But efforts by the government through information drives won back the residents and declared their separation from the rebels,” the tribal leader said.

Maca said the decision of the Manobos in the area to declare the NPA persona non grata had angered the communist rebels.

“While our soldiers are occupied in their support to fight Covid-19, the NPA rebels intruded Sitio Inadan and killed our tribal leader. This is inhuman. Datu Bernandino is already over 70 years of age, yet they mercilessly hacked him to death,” Maca said.

The NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.

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