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Manhunt on for rebels in slay of 5 civilians

BY GILBERT P. BAYORAN

A manhunt is underway for suspected members of the communist New People’s Army, who allegedly killed five civilians in Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental on Friday, Philippine National Police chief, Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, said yesterday.

Eleazar assured the bereaved families of the victims that the PNP will exert all efforts to put the perpetrators behind bars.

Ronelo Quirante, Roger Fat, and couple Rodrigo and Celerina Lubay, all of Sitio Agit, Brgy. Trinidad in Guihulngan City, were shot dead by suspected rebels Friday morning.

Another unnamed civilian was also killed by rebels on the same day in Brgy. Linantuyan, also in Guihulngan, police said.

Lt. Col. Melvin Flores, who is the 62nd Infantry Battalion commander, said yesterday that the summary execution of the four civilians was done in the presence of their families, who were trembling in fear, crying, and pleading for the lives of their loved ones.

SUSPECTED TO BE INFORMANTS

Flores said the four were suspected by the NPA to be government informants, in connection with the deaths of their 10 comrades during an encounter with the 62IB on March 23 in the area.

The family members of the victims were traumatized by the barbaric acts of the terrorist group, he added.

Eleazar said in a statement that the entire PNP family is offering condolences to the families of the victims.

“We are getting statements from the victims’ families and witnesses that will be a big help in identifying the persons behind the killing and in solving this case,” he said.

“The NPA might have taken revenge. We have information that two of the victims were former NPA supporters. We will look into all possible motives,” Eleazar said.

He assured the public that the PNP will always be ready to protect the citizenry, particularly residents of barangays in Guihulngan City, against atrocities by the NPA and other lawless elements.

“We have directed our local police to coordinate with local government officials to intensify security in barangays and nearby places,” he said.

‘IN CONTROL’

Eleazar said the PNP and the Armed Forces of the Philippines are in control of the situation.

He said the PNP will respond to the appeal of Mayor Carlo Joan Reyes of Guihulngan City to maintain peace and ensure the security of the residents.

“We appeal to the public to immediately inform authorities of any suspicious individual or incident so that we can respond properly,” Eleazar said.

Reyes and the Philippine Army also strongly condemned the killing of the civilians, who were executed in the sanctity of their own homes.

Capt. Kelvin Bayaban, 303rd Infantry Brigade Civil Military Operations officer, meanwhile, disputed allegations that the four were military informants, adding that the information that led to the encounter in March came from disgruntled NPA members, who are waiting for an opportune time to leave the terrorist organization.

Bayaban said the families of the victims were also ordered to leave the area, or something may happen to them as well.

The 62nd Infantry Battalion will protect communities being threatened by the NPA, Bayaban said, adding that they and the local government of Guihulngan City will extend assistance to the victims.

2Lt. Mary Liza Joy De Guzman, 62IB Civil Military Operations officer, said yesterday that some families in Sitio Agit left their homes for security reasons, and are temporarily staying in a school, following the liquidation activities of the NPA in their community.

TOO MUCH

“This is simply too much hardship and pain inflicted on the people of Sitio Agit,” Reyes said. Colonel Inocencio Pasaporte, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, who also strongly denounced the terroristic acts of the CPP-NPA, said, “This only confirms the terroristic nature of their organization, that the Anti-Terrorism Council designates as a ‘terrorist organization’.”*

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