'Time to revive peace stalks with communists'
MANILA - Sen. Teofisto "TG" Guingona III on Monday said his mother, Gingoog City Mayor Ruth de Lara Guingona, is now in stable condition after being attacked by New People's Army rebels over the weekend.
Speaking to ABS-CBN's Umagang Kay Ganda, Guingona said his mother, who is 78 years old, will undergo surgery today to remove shrapnel from her body. Mrs. Guingona fractured her right arm and calf, and was also wounded on the pelvis in the attack.
"She is stable now. She is still in pain because she has shrapnel in the body. She also sustained wounds on her foot and hand. She still has to undergo operations to remove the shrapnel and restore the broken bones," he said in an interview.
The senator again condemned the incident, which claimed the lives of 2 people. The mayor's driver, Bartolome Velasco, and his brother, Nelson Velasco, who also served as Guingona’s bodyguard, died in the incident.
The senator said his mother's driver died after using his own body to shield the mayor in the attack.
"Yung namatay na driver na nag-shield sa kanya tsaka yung aide. Magkapatid pa naman sila. We are grieving for their families and we condemn, we really condemn this incident that happened. Hindi dapat nangyari ito," he said.
Guingona is the wife of former Vice-President Teofisto Guingona Jr. and the mother of Sen. Teofisto “TG” Guingona III.
The mayor and her party were on their way back to Gingoog City after attending a fiesta celebration and pageant at Brgy. Alagatan when their vehicles were stopped by armed men at Sitio Dumayokod, Barangay Binakalan, Gingoog, Misamis Oriental Saturday night.
The mayor’s convoy was showered with bullets from the back and side by the armed men. A firefight ensued between the armed men and Guingona’s six police escorts, which lasted for about 10 minutes.
Jorge “Ka Oris” Madlos of the Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA-New Democratic Front in Central Mindanao confirmed that their members in Misamis Oriental were involved in the firefight. The group apologized for the incident but said it was Guingona's group that fired first.
Sen. Guingona earlier blasted the NPA for firing "upon an elderly and innocent woman who is already bowing out of politics."
“They alleged that they fired upon my mother because she breached a policy of bringing arms in their checkpoint. The persons that were carrying the arms are members of the PNP,” the senator said.
He said: "We would like to remind everyone in this country that there is only one government of the Republic of the Philippines. There is only one President who is in-charge in executing the laws of this land. That is President Noynoy Aquino. He is the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. And most importantly, he is the leader of this nation. No one else has the right to usurp the laws of this country."
Time to restart peace talks
During the interview, Guingona said the incident highlights the need to revive peace talks with the communist rebel group. He noted that there have been many incidents of NPA attacks including one at the Del Monte plantation in Bukidnon that left 1 dead.
"Without peace talks, these incidents will escalate and we know that if there is a war, no one will win. Both sides will have victims. Both sides will have casualties. When there is war, the worst victims are the innocent civilians and the women and children. There should be lasting peace through sincere peace talks," he said.
Guingona pointed out the success of the ongoing peace negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which, he said, has led to a decrease in tensions in Mindanao.
He said the collapse of peace negotiations "leaves no alternative but to take up arms, which should not be."
Casiño condemns attack
Meanwhile, leftist senatorial candidate Teddy Casiño also criticized the NPA attack and urged the communist group to launch an investigation.
"I strongly criticize the New People’s Army’s military action on Mayor Ruthie Guingona’s convoy that resulted in the death and injury of civilians. What happened is wrong and unacceptable. Civilians, especially women and the elderly, should be spared from such actions," he said in a statement.
He added: "Although the NPA has admitted its mistake, we expect them to make a thorough investigation, hold those responsible to account, take remedial actions and make amends to the victims’ families. This is a matter that can also be taken up with the NDFP-GRP Joint Monitoring Committee on the Comprehensive Agreement on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law."
"My prayers go out to Mayor Guingona and for her speedy recovery. Likewise, I condole and offer my prayers to the families of her two companions who were killed."
Casiño, the lone senatorial candidate of the Makabayan Coalition, has frequently denied any link to the NPA. He earlier told ANC’s Headstar that asking the communist rebels to give up the armed struggle will not work since they won’t listen anyway.
"Para sa akin, that's tantamount to asking them to surrender and I think that has been done mula pa nung panahon ni Marcos. E hindi naman magsu-surrender. The more constructive approach is the peace process,” he said.
Casiño also said that while he has never been part of the communist underground, he knows that there are very legitimate grievances behind the rebels’ decision to arm themselves. He said he does not support the NPA’s drive to collect funds from candidates who want to campaign in rebel-controlled areas.
“Definitely these are illegal. Labag yan sa ating mga batas. I myself, I do not support that practice. On the other hand, it is an assertion of political authority by the [National Democratic Front] in their controlled areas,” he said.