BACOLOD CITY—The New People’s Army (NPA) has owned up to the ambush in La Castellana town, Negros Occidental over the weekend that left nine persons dead and nine others wounded.
JV Regalado of the Leonardo Panaligan Command also apologized to the families of the two civilians who were killed and of the 14-year-old boy who was wounded in the ambush in Barangay Puso, La Castellana, about 82 kilometers south of here.
In a tape recorded message sent to the media in Negros Occidental on Friday, Regalado said they didn’t plan to stage an attack and kill any of the over 20 passengers onboard the Isuzo Fuzo Canter, who were heading home at 3:45 a.m. on Sunday after attending a fiesta in Puso.
He said they only planned to disarm the policemen, Barangay Peacekeeping Action Team (BPAT) members and village watchmen.
Regalado said they fired a warning shot to stop the vehicle. But shots were fired from the truck, he added. The rebel troops decided to fire back.
Killed were three civilians—truck driver Enrique Dingcong, Virginia Ordoñez and Lito Lucban—PO1 Richard Canja, village watchmen 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 mentioned only Ordoñez and Dingcong when they apologized to the families of the two civilians killed in the ambush.
He promised to get in touch with them to provide assistance to the victims, since under international humanitarian laws, the civilian victims would have to be compensated.
He also said that the NPA would impose disciplinary action against 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 village watchmen and for using a civilian vehicle, he added.
The Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office (NOPPC) planned to file multiple murder and attempted murder charges against the NPA members who participated in the ambush.
Senior Supt. Celestino Guara, caretaker of the NOPPC, said they had the names of the four NPA members, including three or four local fighters who served as guides.
Local officials and residents, including the victims’ families, condemned the ambush and demanded justice for 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, 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 tricycle driver, financed the education of his five nieces and nephews.
Cecilia, wife of truck driver Dingcong, said she didn’t know how to support her two children, aged 7 and 11, now that her husband was dead.