BACOLOD CITY , Philippines – The National Democratic Front (NDF) said the ambush staged by New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in La Castellana, Negros Occidental last Jan. 27 that killed eight people, including a policeman, was “legitimate.”
Luis Jalandoni, chief negotiator of the NDF and writing from the Netherlands where he is on self-exile, said in a statement dated Feb. 7 that the NPA operation was directed at a “legitimate target” – the policemen and members of the Barangay Peacekeeping Action Team (BPAT) who he tagged as “paramilitaries.”
But the military yesterday slammed the NDF for justifying the ambush and demanded that it surrender the rebels behind the attack.
Maj. Ray Tiongson, spokesman of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, said those who carried out the ambush should be made accountable for their act.
“The government will pursue the case and see to it that the rule of law must be applied to all,” he said in a statement.
Jalandoni alleged that the NPA seized high-powered rifles, among other guns, from the victims, “proving that the principal passengers and the vehicle were a legitimate target of the NPA.”
“Among the firearms taken by the NPA unit were two M-16 rifles and a submachine gun, serial numbers of which are 181540, 183397 and 45N3,” Jalandoni said, quoting JB Regalado, spokesman of the NPA Leonardo Panaligan Command that claimed responsibility for the attack.
Jalandoni, a member of the NDF National Executive Committee, said the BPAT personnel are not “civilians,” as authorities claim, but “paramilitaries.”
“The police and paramilitary (BPAT) are culpable for commandeering the driver and truck and making the civilians their hostages,” he said.
In a voice-recorded statement last Feb. 1, Regalado said it was not their intention to ambush the policemen and the BPAT members.
Regalado said they only wanted to disarm the policemen, BPAT members and barangay watchmen on the truck because they were armed, and some of them allow themselves to be used to do intelligence work against rebels in Barangays Puso and Cabacungan in La Castellana town.
“The objective of the NPA unit concerned was to make a checkpoint. It fired a warning shot because the truck did not stop. Then, the police and paramilitary personnel fired at the NPA unit in heavy volume. Thus, the NPA fired back,” Jalandoni said.
“No passenger was deliberately shot in the head after being wounded or killed. This is a blatant lie of the civil and military officials for psy-war effect,” he added.
Police filed last week nine counts of murder and 14 counts of frustrated murder as well as violation of Republic Act 9851, or the Philippine Act on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide and Other Crimes Against Humanity, against at least 20 rebels belonging to the NPA’s “Larangan Guerilya 1” with a certain Magno Flores as main respondent.
The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process recommended the filing of charges of “war crimes” against the insurgents for violation of RA 9851.
Maj. Gen. Jose Mabanta Jr., 3rd ID commander, challenged Jalandoni to “come out of his comfort zone in the Netherlands and go straight to La Castellana to see for himself what really transpired.”
"Jalandoni’s warning that charges of war crimes against the NPA led by Magno Flores could jeopardize the ongoing peace negotiation is a bluff," Tiongson said. – With Alexis Romero