The police and military have tagged the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army as the one behind the killing of a village official in Vallehermoso, Negros Oriental over the weekend.
Col. Reynaldo Lizardo, provincial police director, in a press briefing on Monday at Camp Francisco Fernandez in Barangay Agan-an, Sibulan town, said Councilor Cerilo Balasabas of Sitio Banban, Barangay Guba was “friendly and helpful with government troops”.
A police report said Balasabas, 48, was shot by three gunmen around 6:30 p.m. Saturday at his house and was declared dead on arrival at the Rural Health Unit.
Initial police investigation showed that the victim was outside his house together with his wife when the suspects, whose faces were not covered and were armed with long and short firearms, arrived.
One of them told the wife, Sortcelia, to go inside as they wanted to talk to her husband.
The gunmen shot the village official several times, and fled toward the mountainous areas of nearby Guihulngan City.
Capt. Antonio De Leon Jr., OIC police chief of Vallehermoso, said Balasabas was president of the farmers’ association in Barangay Guba, and was known for being helpful to his neighbors and constituents.
The NPA’s Leonardo Panaligan Command through its spokesperson, Ka JB Regalado, issued a statement, claiming responsibility for the death of Balasabas for several reasons, one of which was his being an “informant” of the military.
Meanwhile, Lt. Col. William Pesase, commanding officer of the Philippine Army’s 62nd Infantry Battalion, condemned the killing of the barangay official, saying this was just one of the many atrocities committed by the NPA that have turned their supporters against them.
Pesase said regardless of what the rebel group is saying, there is no justification for killing a person “except to satisfy their selfish interest for propaganda to their remaining members”.
“Many of them have already surrendered and others would also like to do the same,” he said in mixed English and Filipino.
The Army has estimated that the NPA here is losing its members due to various neutralizations, with its strength down by 78 percent in manpower and 48 percent in firearms in the Province.
According to Brig.Gen. Leonardo Peña, 302nd brigade commander of the Philippine Army, aside from massive operations of the military, the government’s whole-of-nation-approach in ending local communist armed conflict has resulted to the reduction of CTG combatants from 123 to 49 and 137 firearms down to 72 from the 4th quarter of 2020 to the 3rd quarter of 2022, respectively.
“The number of firearms that were captured, confiscated, surrendered, and recovered from the CTG created a major setback and significantly degraded its ability to conduct atrocities in Negros Oriental,” said Peña.
The Army official cited the importance of task force ELCAC that created collaboration among different local partner agencies that have their own share of responsibility in resolving the insurgency problem.
“The problem on insurgency or terrorism brought about by the CTGs is not only deeply rooted in the armed struggle but also in social issues, and that not only the AFP or PNP can resolve but this can be addressed by LGUs, local and national agencies and also a big part of it, is the participation of the community,” said Peña.
It was reported that none of the 557 barangays in the province are no longer under the influence or affected by the CPP-NPA since the NTF-ELCAC was implemented in 2018.
Various government agencies have provided the much-needed government services to communities such as rehabilitation and improvement of farm to market roads at Brgy. Tayak in Siaton and Sitios Avocado and Tamlang in Brgy. Talalak, Sta Catalina; housing project for former rebels; opening of library in Taloto Elem. School, Brgy. Linantuyan, Guihulngan; youth leadership summit; and a series of medical missions to hinterland barangays through Dagyawan Serbisyo Caravans, among others.
Peña said the task force managed to carry out its peacekeeping interventions despite the challenges in implementation.
“The people of Negros Oriental already claims and supports the national governments effort in ending the decades-long communist armed conflict,” he said.
He urged the remaining CTGs to surrender, return to their respective families, and avail of the programs offered by the government while the government pushes for peace and eliminate the CTG-NPA in the province.
The decrease in the number of armed guerilla groups is also attributed to the resources and projects implemented by various government agencies in health, road networks, and education to conflict-affected and geographically isolated areas. (Judy F. Partlow/JCT/PIA7 NegOr)