BACOLOD CITY, Philippines—The New People’s Army has owned up to the killing of nine people and the wounding of nine others in an ambush in La Castellana town in Negros Occidental over the weekend.
JV Regalado of the Leonardo Panaligan Command apologized to the families of two civilians who were killed and of the 14-year-old boy who was wounded in the ambush in Barangay Puso, La Castillana, about 82 km south of here.
In a tape recorded message sent to the media in Negros Occidental on Friday, Regalado said they did not plan to kill any of the over 20 passengers on the Isuzo Fuzo Canter who were heading home at 3:45 a.m. on Sunday after attending a fiesta in Barangay Puso.
He said they intended only to disarm the policemen, Barangay Peacekeeping Action Team (BPAT) members.
Regalado said they fired warning shots to stop the vehicle. But shots were fired from the truck, he added, and the guerrillas decided to retaliate and fire back.
Killed were three civilians — truck driver Enrique Dingcong, Virginia Ordoñez and Lito Lucban— PO1 Richard Canja; barangay tanods Mario Ricablanca and Teotimo Esplegera; BPAT members Ulysses Tamayor, Jonathan Mateo and Ramir Complesa.
Regalado said they were able to take seven firearms from the policemen and their companions.
In the recorded message, Regalado identified only Ordoñez and Dingcong when they apologized to the families of civilians killed in the ambush.
He promised to get in touch them to provide assistance to the victims since under international humanitarian laws, civilian victims have to be compensated.
He promised that the NPA would impose disciplinary action on those who participated in the ambush, including the head of the group. But at the same time, the NPA also blamed the government for arming BPAT and tanod members and for using a civilian vehicle, he added.
The Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office planned to file charges of multiple murder and attempted murder against the NPA members who participated in the ambush.
Senior Supt. Celestino Guara, caretaker of the Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office, said they already had the names of four NPA members and three or four local fighters who served as guides.
In the meantime, local officials and residents, including the victims’ families, condemned the ambush and demanded justice to the victims.
Complesa’s widow, Arlene, asked President Aquino to provide financial assistance to the families of the victims since most of them were breadwinners.
Her plea for help was echoed by Erlinda, Lito Lucban’s mother, one of the civilians killed in the ambush.
“Without my son, who will be the breadwinner of the family? Who will feed us now?” she asked.
She said her son, a farm worker and a tricycle driver, financed the education of his five nieces and nephews.
Cecilia, wife of the truck driver Ricky Dingcong, said she didn’t know how to support her two children aged 7 and 11 now that her husband was dead.