Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa visited the wake of two of four policemen killed in an ambush in Bansalan, Davao del Sur.
Dela Rosa condoled with the family of slain Bansalan cop, PO1 Joel Rholly Benelayo, and PO3 Jayden Rabor, whose remains were at the town's municipal hall.
The other two killed in action were PO1 Joel Narvaza and PO1 Saro Mangotara.
Narvaza's remains were brought to his hometown in Kidapawan City. Mangotara was laid to rest on Wednesday afternoon.
According to Dela Rosa, common sense tells him that the New People’s Army (NPA) was behind what the military called a "ruthless attack" on the cops who were laboratory technicians and technical specialists.
"Sino pa ba ang mang-ambush sa pulis, MILF [Moro Islamic Liberation Front]? Wala namang MILF dito. Sabihin mong Abu Sayyaf? Wala namang Abu Sayyaf na makakapang-ambush dito," he said in a press conference.
The PNP chief added that the town of Bansalan, where he also served as chief of police in 1991, has a long history of encounters with communist rebels.
"Alam ko naman talaga na itong Bansalan ay may mga barangay pa na medyo influenced ng kalaban," he said. "Alam ko, pag chief of police ka dito, you should know your operational environment."
Dela Rosa also lamented the fact that the victims of the ambush were "non-combatants" and were supposedly responding to a reported murder in Barangay Sibayan, at around 7:40 a.m. Wednesday.
"Grabe, tinadtad ng bala. Nakakalungkot. Bakit ganoon?" he said. "Sila (gunmen) ang dapat sumagot kung bakit nila ginawa 'yan."
Dela Rosa added that it is possible that the reported murder the victims were responding to were just bait by the perpetrators for their planned ambush.
"May history talaga ang Bansalan about that. 'Yung meron silang papatayin pagtapos magreresponde ang pulis, pagresponde saka nila ia-ambush," he said, citing his own past experience as Bansalan police chief.
The Davao del Sur police, however, said they are still looking into whether the murder was really used as a bait for the ambush.
A "heightened alert" has already been raised in Davao del Sur following the incident as authorities continue to do follow-up operations.
Supt. Samuel Gadingan, director of the Davao del Sur police, tagged the NPA Front Committee 51, led by a "Kumander Greg," as possible perpetrators of the ambush.
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Col. Tyne Bañas, an Army brigade commander operating in the area, said members of the NPA are still operating in the areas of Sta. Cruz, Digos, Bansalan and Makilala.
Bañas claimed the NPA has been conducting recruitment and extortion in these areas.
If it is proven that the NPA is involved in the ambush, Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella that this might influence efforts to revive the peace talks.
"It will provide some sort of influence. However, there are bigger things in the pursuit of peace," said Abella.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said earlier that the government has set three conditions to the communists for them to return to the negotiation table.
The conditions include a declaration of bilateral ceasefire, the rebel's stoppage of extortion from businesses, and for the rebels to release all their hostages.--with reports from Ara Casas and Chiara Zambrano, ABS-CBN News