The New People’s Army (NPA) operating in Surigao del Sur province admitted responsibility for the October 4 ambush that killed a tribal leader and two of his companions in Lianga town.
Ka Sandra Sidlakan, the spokesperson of NPA Front 21 northeastern Mindanao, said that the NPA punished Datu Jomar Bocales, the indigenous peoples’ mandatory representative (IPMR) to the Lianga town council, because of his alleged “antipeople” and counterrevolutionary activities.
She said Bocales had ties with the military-backed Magahat-Bagani––a lumad paramilitary group allegedly responsible for the 2015 killing of Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (Alcadev) school director Emerico Samarca, tribal leaders Dionel Campos and Datu Jovello Sinzo, and the burning of a lumad school in Barangay Diatagon in Lianga.
“Dili man ikalilong pod sa katawhan kon unsa pod iya sala. Sya (Bocales) usa sa mga paramilitar ug usa sa mga gi-amoma sa han-ay sa militar,” Sidlakan said in a radio interview.
“Konektado sya sa panahon nga dunay nahitabo sa pagpamatay sa lider lumad apil na kadtong si Samarca,” she added.
Bocales was with six escorts heading for home when they were waylaid at Sitio Mamsapranon, Barangay Banahao by heavily armed communist rebels at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday.
Apart from Bocales, two of his companions identified as Alberto dela Peña and Artemio Muldez were also killed. Two others were injured fleeing the gunfire.
Lianga tribal chieftain Datu Constancio Duhac condemned the attack. “We condemned these NPA terrorists. His death will not stop us from fighting for the rights of IPs. His death will not discourage us in fighting the NPAs, rather this will inspire and ignite us more to protect our tribe from them,” Duhac said in a statement.
The IP Tribal Council of Lianga vowed to file charges against the rebel group to exact justice for the tribal leader’s killing.
For his part, San Miguel town IPMR Rico Maca expressed sorrow over the killing, calling Bocales “a Manobo leader who wanted to empower the lumad to stand for their ancestral domain and rights to self-determination.”
Maca said he believed Bocales had been targeted by the NPA because of the latter’s unrelenting drive to permanently shut down schools under the Alcadev and the Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur (TRIFPSS) which, the military has tagged as alleged training grounds for communist insurgents.
He urged the government “to take action because what happened was unacceptable.” CLC