Communist rebels have claimed responsibility for the killing of Palawan disaster risk reduction chief Gilbert Baaco, but the provincial government denied this, asserting the slay was politically motivated.
Unidentified gunmen killed Baaco, program head of the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office and Rescue 165, inside his home in Barangay Barong-Barong, Brooke's Point Friday night.
A post in the Philippine Revolution website said the Bienvenido Vallever Command, supposedly part of the New People's Army in Palawan, took responsibility for the killing of Baaco, whom they alleged to be a drug lord and a gun runner.
The rebels said they raided Baaco's home due to information that shabu would be sold there that evening. They said Baaco learned of the raid and fired at them, forcing them to fire back.
They said Baaco had long been in their watchlist because of his illegal activities concealed under the guise of Rescue 165.
Citizens knew of his crimes, they added, such as 'tokhang'-style killing of colleagues who wanted to leave the group, or civilians they suspect would report their activities to authorities.
Several local officials believed Baaco's murder was politically motivated.
"Drug lord? Wala sa kahit anong history na siya ay drug lord,” said Atty. Gil Acost Jr., Provincial Information Officer.
Governor Jose Chaves Alvarez said he could not name suspects yet due to lack of evidence.
Alvarez meanwhile said the guns recovered from Baaco, 18 in total according to the rebels, were government property.
This was seconded by Provincial Diretor Senior Supt. Gabriel Lopez, who said the firearms had licenses.
Alvarez said Baaco possessed P3-million but cops only recovered guns in Baaco's residence.
"Nasaan ang pera? Hindi alam kung nasaan na?," he said.
Alvarez offered a P10-million reward for any information leading to the suspects' arrest.
Authorities are also looking at the possibility that Baaco shot an armed individual in the alleged encounter.
- with a report from Arlie Cabrestante, ABS-CBN News