14 killed in Negros Oriental farmers – rights group, New People’s Army

A HUMAN rights group and the New People’s Army yesterday said the 14 people killed in police operations in Negros Oriental last Saturday were all farmers.

Karapatan, a human rights non-government organization, condemned the killing of the 14 peasants.

“This is unconscionable. We strongly demand an immediate and independent investigation into the incident. The Negros region has been a consistent target of escalating police and military operations, which have had severe and catastrophic consequences for the communities in the area,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said.

Karapatan condoled with the families of the farmers killed as the group joined in the call for justice for the victims.

The Leonardo Panaligan Command of the New People’s Army (LPC-NPA) in Negros Oriental said eight of those who died were farmers from Canlaon City, Negros Oriental.

Police said the 14 persons killed in gunbattles with policemen in Negros Oriental were tagged as members of the New People’s Army who were involved in a series of attacks on government troops and facilities in Central Visayas since last year.

The 14 were killed as the Police Regional Office 7 launched Oplan: Sauron 2ptO, a massive operation to arrest suspected NPA members operating in the first district of Negros Oriental.

Police Regional Office 7 director Brig. Gen. Debold Sinas said the 14 suspects: Eight in Canlaon City; four in Manjuyod municipality, and two in Sta. Catalina town, suffered gunshot wounds after trading shots with officers and died while being taken to the hospital.

Fifteen others were also arrested while six managed to escape and are being hunted.

Recovered during the operations were eight rifle grenades, seven cal. .45 pistols, 17 cal. .38 revolvers; one cal. .38 revolver; three 12-gauge shotguns; one homemade rifle and two other firearms of unknown caliber as well as 147 assorted live ammunition and a huge volume of suspected rebel documents.

Sinas said that a total of 36 search warrants for illegal possession of firearms and explosives were served by his men in the different cities and municipalities of the province, all of them approved by different executive judges in Negros Oriental and Cebu City.

The official said targeted by the raids were suspected NPA rebels involved in the thwarted attack on the Canlaon City Police Station last March 17, where some of the suspects turned out to be living just in front or near the police station, the failed assassination of Police Senior Master Sgt. Humprey Teves of the Manjuyod police last March 7,  the killing of Army Master Sgt. Celso Pedochino last October 13, the failed assassination of Patrolman Paul Tarugo of the Canlaon City Police on November 14 last year, and the shooting of Police Master Sgt. Marjun Cadiz in Manjuyod.

The raids took place in the following areas: Ayungon-1, Canlaon City-14, Guilhungan City-3, Mabinay-4, Manjuyod-5, Siaton-3, Santa Catalina-3, Tanjay City-1, and Vallehermoso-2.

The slain suspects were identified as Steve Arapoc, Manulo Martin, Sunny Palagtiw, Edgardo Avelino, Esmael Avelino, Rogelio Recomono, Ricky Recomono, Genes Palmares, Eric Acabal, Ano Enojo Rapada, Gonzalo Rosales, Melchor Pañared, Mario Pañares  and Franklin Lariosa.

Ismael Avelino was identified as an NPA “messenger/guide/spotter” while Edgardo Avelino was said to be a leader of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas who facilitates logistical and financial support to the leftist movement.

Asentita was said to be an NPA mass base organizer and political officer who lives in front of the Canlaon City Police Station.

Arapoc was an NPA guide who helped the hitmen who tried to kill Teves in a local public market but failed when the cop shot one of them dead.

The Recomonos were tagged as behind the assassination of Pedochino by NPA hitmen Martin, Paligtiw and Acabal, all of Manjuyo.

Sinas said Henrico Martin, Asucena Avelino Garubat, Corazon Javier, Amorgena Caballero, Zalde Dumasog, Elpidio Vallespin, Reneboy Toting Kanyapaygo, Marvin Remoto, Nestor Lanaja Kadusale, Welmer Ejercito, Ranel Montecino, Julio Dayupay, Ana Marie Dayoha, Eddie Silva, Edgardo Marinay Jr. and Joraldine Relobello yielded unlicensed firearms.

All but Relobello were subject of the search warrants. 

At least five suspects, Junhie Palonpalong, Arturo Ade, Eppie Asentista, Renante Gerunda, Leonardo Montemayor and Esing Palopalo, managed to escape and are being hunted.